By Thupeyo Muleya
Two Zimbabwean cross-border transporters and a South African woman were last Thursday convicted on 62 charges ranging from murder, robbery, extortion, rape among other violent crimes perpetrated in that country.
The three were found guilty following a fully contested trail at the South Gauteng High Court.
Jaheni “Satan” Luphahla (28) of Old Lobengula in Bulawayo and Phathumuzi “KK” Sibanda (27) of Emakhandeni in Bulawayo and Madida Petition Sicelo (30) alias Sister (a South African) are believed to be part of a gang that unleashed a reign of terror on Zimbabweans visiting that country.
The matter was postponed to tomorrow for sentencing.
Their alleged ringleader, Charles Cecil Brewer, alias Boss of Nketa 7 in Bulawayo, has already been jailed for an effective 20 years after pleading guilty to 62 charges of crimes ranging from murder, rape, robbery, extortion and assault among others.
Brewer who is married to Sicelo had initially been slapped within 350 years imprisonment, but was left with 20 years to serve following a plea bargain with the state.
The state opted to make him a key state witness against members of the syndicate, which has become a perennial headache for South African authorities.
Brewer turned the key witnesses against his wife and two accomplices, Luphala and Sibanda, in a trial which had over 26 witnesses.
The gang is accused of kidnapping more than 100 Zimbabweans and killing several others including two Harare women.
They are accused of having unleashed a reign of terror on fellow Zimbabweans between 30 May and 11 July last year.
Brewer and associates have been in remand prison since their arrest in July last year and were denied bail at the Thembisa Magistrates’ Court in Johannesburg before the matter was transferred to the higher court.
The matter has been dragging on as the accused have been struggling to get a lawyer soon after dumping the State’s free legal practitioners.
The four are believed to be part of a syndicate targeting mostly women travelling between Musina and Johannesburg in Gauteng Province.
Sources close to the case said yesterday that the accused persons were arrested during a police sting operation in Musina on July 25 while preying on unsuspecting victims who were travelling to Johannesburg.
They said the accused persons have been positively identified by most of the victims.
“Brewer and Madida were positively identified as the drivers of the white Opel (registration numbers SNB949GP) and the red Hyundai Matrix (registration numbers ND462078),” said one official.
Authorities said the syndicate operates from Total and Engen filling stations and a house in Musina, where they pounce on Zimbabwean hitch-hikers travelling to Gauteng Province.
Charges are that the gang used South African-registered private vehicles and touts to lure the unsuspecting victims into their cars. These travellers were then kidnapped and detained at various houses upon reaching Johannesburg.
It is reported that in most of the incidents they demanded money from the victims’ relatives to secure their release. The money, which ranged from R3 000 and above, would be paid through various money agencies. The Chronicle