South Africa Police Minister Bheki Cele and national Hawks head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya have commended the hefty sentences handed to three men convicted in the murder of a police officer and a businessman.
This comes after the South Gauteng High Court on Thursday handed Halalisani Eugene Gumede (30), Lungisane Gamelihle Madlala (27) and Ntuthuko Mseleku (30) six life sentences plus 604 years imprisonment for various serious crimes.
Earlier, the three were found guilty of murder, attempted murder, armed robberies, and possession of unlicensed firearms, defeating and obstruction of justice.
“The trio’s reign of terror started in August 2016 when they attacked and robbed a business in Palm Ridge, east of Johannesburg,” said Brigadier Mathapelo Peters, Cele’s spokesperson, in a joint statement.
“The owner of the business, Mbakwa Ephraim Mdaka (50) was contacted and on his arrival, he was unmercifully shot and immediately succumbed to the injuries.”
The three then took the deceased’s firearm and an undisclosed amount of money before ransacking the tavern.
“As they drove away, the local armed response security officials who were also ascending to the crime scene, were confronted by Gumede, Mseleku and Madlala who overpowered them and took their firearms as they sped off,” said the police.
Off-duty Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Constable Sabelo Welcome Ngwenya (40), who heard the commotion rushed to the scene and immediately put himself on duty and chased after the accused vehicle.
“Unbeknown to Ngwenya, the suspects were using two vehicles. He managed to corner one of the vehicles which had Gumede and Madlala inside. They, Gumede and Madlala, lost control of their vehicle and crashed into a tree forcing their vehicle to stop not far from the crime scene,” the police said.
While Constable Ngwenya was arresting the accused, Mseleku driving a black Toyota RunX, shot and killed Constable Ngwenya on the upper body and took off with his two accomplices.
“A search for the suspects by the Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation and Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police began. A week later Gumede and Madlala were intercepted in Brakpan while they were driving to KwaZulu-Natal. During the search of their vehicle, police found five pistols and a revolver in the boot,” the police said.
The following day the investigation team followed up on intelligence information which led them to Rustenburg, North West where they arrested Mseleku at a local hotel.
Peters said further investigations revealed that the trio’s immense criminal activities included armed attacks on innocent victims where they forcibly removed and stole wedding rings, watches and cash.
“Many civilians also felt the brunt of the cruelty when they were attacked at shopping centres, township taverns and if they resisted they were then severely assaulted and shot at,” she said.
Lebeya in the statement welcomed the sentences.
He said: “Although the heinous crimes and the loss of the lives cannot be reversed, the sentences demonstrate that justice is not only done but it is clearly seen to be done. I commend the investigation and prosecuting team that have, for five years, worked on these cases”.
Cele said the sentences will serve as endorsement to the new approach to ensuring justice through enhanced relations between the SAPS and NPA.
“An attack on the police is an attack on the State. Anyone who is hellbent on undermining the authority of the State deserves to rot in jail,” said the Minister, commending the investigators for the quality investigation.
The Minister added the police will continue to work towards ensuring the safety and security of citizens