Severe sentences for liquor store robbers

Two of the men who were sentenced yesterday for robbing Tops SPAR Liquor Store in Rink Street
Two of the men who were sentenced yesterday for robbing Tops SPAR Liquor Store in Rink Street

Three each get 20 years in jail after accomplice killed in shootout

Three young men with seemingly bright futures were each sentenced to an effective 20 years in prison yesterday following the robbery of a Central liquor store. Their friend and co-perpetrator was killed in a shootout with the police.

The families of Chumani Gidane, 25, Mkhanyiso Bobo, 26, and Ntsika Williams, 25, all of New Brighton, sobbed uncontrollably as the men were escorted back to the holding cells of the Port Elizabeth High Court.

Their defence attorney, Hennie Bence, had told the court he was astounded by their involvement in a robbery as they were well educated and had bright futures ahead of them.

Gidane, in particular, was completing a marketing degree.

The men were convicted of robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder, malicious damage to property, possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition, and four counts of attempted murder, after they robbed Tops SPAR Liquor Store in Rink Street in September 2015.

Their friend, Wongalethu Sana, died following the shootout with police, and Gidane, Bobo and Williams were charged with his murder after it was found that their wrongful actions had resulted in his death.

The court found the men had acted jointly in the execution of a common purpose.

After sentencing, however, Judge Phakamisa Tshiki granted the men leave to appeal against the murder conviction to a full bench of the Grahamstown High Court.

The three friends and Sana had entered Tops at about 6.40pm on September 30.

An armed Williams forced security guard Aphiwe Mthugwa at gunpoint to lie on the floor while they took cash from the till.

Gidane and Bobo then packed bottles of alcohol into shopping bags. The alcohol was loaded into a white Ford Figo parked outside and they sped off.

Constables Mthetheleli Mamana and Leigh-Ann Jacobs, who had responded to an alert about the robbery, gave chase.

A shootout ensued and a bystander’s vehicle was caught in the crossfire.

The Figo eventually came to a stop in Martin Street, North End, and it was found that Sana had been fatally shot in the chest.

In calling for life sentences to be implemented, state advocate Andre Canary said the men had even tried to pin the blame on their dead friend.

Bence, meanwhile, said the men were all first offenders. He argued that substantial and compelling circumstances existed, which allowed the court to deviate from the prescribed minimum life sentence.

Tshiki agreed, but said the sentence still needed to be harsh enough to show there had been a loss of life.

He sentenced the men to 15 years for the robbery, 10 years for each count of attempted murder, five years for malicious damage to property, 20 years for murder and a combined 15 years for the unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.

The sentences would run concurrently.

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