Cape Town – Two men involved in an armed robbery on a farm and a fatal shootout with police officers, were sentenced in the Western Cape High Court on Friday morning.
Acting Judge Sakkie Maartens handed an effective 25 years in jail to Mbongiseni Sithelo, 28, and 18 years behind bars to 29-year-old Sicelo Kwayimani. They were each given 18 years in jail for robbery with aggravating circumstances.
Sithelo was handed 7 years for each count of attempted murder, to be served concurrently. He was also given concurrent terms of three years for illegal possession of a firearm and a year for illegal possession of ammunition.
Maartens had given due regard to the seriousness of the crimes and that robberies on farms were a reality in the country. “The fact that it was perpetrated in broad daylight by group of people who did not even bother to conceal their identity can only be described as brazen and audacious,” he said.
Constable Rozelle Witbooi was killed in a shootout after the robbery last February. Her colleague Constable Jonathan Koopman was shot at but not hit. They responded to an alert about a robbery taking place at a vegetable farm on the outskirts of Kraaifontein.
The officers had confronted the pair at an intersection about a kilometre from the farm. Both men were charged with murder. The court ended up convicting Sithelo of two counts of attempted murder.
A gang of men targeted the farm and stole a phone, laptop and other items worth about R30 000 from the farmhouse. Twelve employees, who were cleaning and packing vegetables in a nearby storeroom, were robbed of their phones.
They were then locked in a walk-in cold room, not in use at the time, for about an hour. “A healthy measure of pre-planning must have necessarily been involved,” said the acting judge.
He said “deadly weapons” such as firearms and knives were used to inspire fear although it counted in the men’s favour that they did not inflict serious injuries on the 12 employees.
Both were first offenders.