Heist details come to light

Nomahlubi Jordaan

DETAILS of a botched liquid platinum heist in which six people were killed nearly two years ago have started to emerge in the Port Elizabeth High Court.

Seven men – Unathi Wana, 33, of Mahambehlala Street, Kwazakhele; Mlungisi Ntsume, 37, of Tshangana Street, New Brighton; Lonwabo Neti, 28, of Mgalagala Street, KwaDwesi; Madoda Nube, 38, of Nkapuka Street, New Brighton; Luyanda Njokweni, 37, of Ncwana Street, New Brighton; Xolani Nanto, 37, of Kuleleha Street, New Brighton and Vukile Ngcangisa, 50, of Mpongo Street, Motherwell – face a string of charges including murder, theft, robbery and possession of firearms and ammunition.

They have all pleaded not guilty.

Testifying against the men, Colonel Lungisile Manyana told the court yesterday why police had planned an undercover operation.

“After considering the situation in the metro – of liquid platinum robberies – I decided to do an operation and get an agent to work undercover. I got permission from the Director of Public Prosecution [DPP] to go ahead with the operation and to hire an agent,” he said.

The plan involved placing a police agent as a driver at Brinks SA, the company transporting the platinum, and to record – on video and audio – interaction between the agent and “targets”.

“The plan was for the agent to get information and not incite any robbery,” Manyana said.

The agent, a constable from outside Port Elizabeth, had been trained and was working under Manyana’s guidance.

While on duty as a driver, the agent went one day to the Algoa Park Steers, where he was approached by an unknown man who asked for his cellphone number.

“He [the agent] was wearing [a] uniform and driving the company vehicle and had his name tag on,” Manyana said.

“On August 13 2011, the agent received a call from a person who identified himself as Xolani and he requested permission to meet him.”

Police then prepared equipment to record the meeting.

The meeting, held on August 19 2011, was the first of many between the agent and other individuals about the heist.

Manyana said he received information about a robbery on October 11 2011, but it did not unfold because of a heavy police presence in Nelson Mandela Bay as former national police commissioner Bheki Cele was in town.

“There were also other meetings for another robbery and it was planned for November 8 2011.”

He said the information police received indicated there would be three vehicles involved in the robbery and that two of them would be used to “box” the vehicle transporting the platinum.

Manyana told the court he asked the National Intervention Unit (NIU) for help on the day of the planned robbery.

Three teams, including NIU officials and other police officers, were deployed to various sites on the day.

One group was to escort the Brinks vehicle from the airport, the other would stake out on the first floor of a building in Stephenson Road near Deal Party and another on the ground floor of the building.

“On the day of the planned robbery, I received a call that the robbers were in Burman Road [Deal Party], close to Stephenson Road. Just before the robbery, I left the group [I] was with on the first floor and moved to the back,” Manyana said. Minutes later he heard gunshots. The trial continues.

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