/ 28 October 2008

Five Jeppe massacre accused found guilty

Gunpowder residue and DNA samples were all the evidence needed for Johannesburg High Court Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng to place three men at the scene of the bloody shoot-out in Jeppestown in 2006.

Handing down his judgement on Tuesday, Mokgoatlheng found Sizwe Mbuyazi, Khumbulani Mabaso and Sizwe Dlamini guilty robbery, attempted murder and murder.

The murder charges relate to the gunning down of four police officers during a gun battle in Jeppestown, following a robbery at the Honeydew Pick ‘n Pay supermarket on June 25 2006.

Eight suspected robbers were also killed in the shoot-out and the judge found the three men guilty of those murders as well.

”As regards to the deaths of fellow robbers, [they are] also culpable,” Mokgoatlheng said.

He found they had falsified their evidence in a bid to distance themselves from the events surrounding the robbery and shooting.

In his evidence, Mbuyazi told the court he had gone to the house in Jeppestown to fix his vehicle after a friend told him it had broken down.

”When accused says he arrived at the house in the morning before the shooting ensued … that evidence cannot be true. It is obvious he wants to distance himself from the robbery in Honeydew and in our view, his version cannot be reasonably possibly true. It [Mbuyazi’s evidence] is rejected as false and as a fabrication,” Mokgoatlheng said.

Gunpowder residue found on Mbuyazi’s hands, as well as DNA from a cap found in a Ford Focus believed to have been among the vehicles used in the robbery, linked him to the crime.

”The court finds that he was among a group of robbers that went to Honeydew Pick ‘n Pay in June 2006. He was also part of the pursuance of a common purpose to evade arrest and protect the spoils. It is clear that the group in the room of death and horror waited for police in ambush,” the judge said.

He also disputed Mabaso’s evidence that he had been hired to drive some men to Honeydew for a cleansing ceremony, and that he had only gone to the house in Jeppestown after the men instructed him to do so as arrangements for the ceremony were to be finalised there.

Mabaso had testified that he had only stepped inside the house on realising the men were taking too long with the balance of the R400 he had charged them.

”His version that he waited for money from people inside the house cannot be true because they were chased from the scene… he’s found guilty as charged,” Mokgoatlheng said.

Dlamini’s claims that he had been hijacked while driving his taxi in the Johannesburg CBD was also disputed.

In the courtroom packed with journalists, armed police officers and family and friends of the 12 accused, the judge placed Dlamini at the scene of the robbery, saying his contradictory statements made him an evasive witness.

”When he was caught in discrepancies, he blamed poor interpreters,” Mokgoatlheng said.

Having convicted Senzo Emmanuel Mweli, and Nkosinathi Mzamo Mchunu on Monday, the judge was expected to pronounce his judgement on the remaining seven accused on Wednesday morning.

The only female accused in the case, Dineo Mary Maleke, was acquitted on all charges on Monday morning. – Sapa