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12 Jun 2003 15:04
A highway gang was convicted in the Kroonstad Circuit Court on Thursday of 22 truck hijackings.
Six of the eight accused members of the hijacking syndicate were found guilty of 54 charges in total, including several for armed robbery and abduction of drivers.
High court Judge Faan Hancke also convicted three of them for contravening the Organised Crime Act. A seventh accused, David Dube, was not charged after turning
state witness, and an eighth, Lithiwe Mbatha, was acquitted.
Ringleader Zakele Nkosi (31) was convicted of 29 charges, including two counts of murder, 14 of robbery with aggravating circumstances, and nine of abduction.
Hancke said evidence indicated Nkosi had played a leading role in the crimes.
Shortly afterwards, during a tea break, an agitated Nkosi tried to attack a cameraman filming him and his fellow accused.
Nkosi jumped from his seat in the dock, attempting to grab the television camera before a court orderly restrained him.
Another accused, Richard Maseko (40) was found guilty of the same charges as Nkosi.
Hancke said in his judgment the large number of cellphones and sim cards exchanged constantly among the accused was a strong indication of their co-operation.
They apparently kept exchanging 70 cellphones to hinder their tracing and identification, Hancke said.
In the end, however, a substantial part of their convictions was based on evidence retrieved from cellphone networks about calls they had made.
The gang was prosecuted for stealing property worth about R25-million over a period of 14 months on the N1 and N3 highways.
Their trial, which started in February, was the longest in Free State history. - Sapa
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