PRETORIA The National Head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation and the Minister of Police have commended the hefty sentence handed to three men for their role in the murder of a police officer and a businessman.

Halalisani Eugene Gumede (30), Lungisane Gamelihle Madlala (27) and Ntuthuko Mseleku (30) were sentenced to six life sentences plus 604 years imprisonment in the South Gauteng High Court on Thursday after they were found guilty of murder, attempted murder, armed robberies, 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 establishment in Palm Ridge, east of Johannesburg. 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 took the deceased’s firearm, undisclosed amount of money and ransacked 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.

An off duty Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police member attached to Zonkezizwe, 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.

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 following day the investigation team followed up on intelligence information which led them to Rusternberg, North West where they arrested Mseleku at a local hotel.

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.

The trio never saw the light of day since they were captured and on Thursday Judge Cassim Moosa slapped Gumede, Madlala and Mseleku with two life sentences each plus 604 years on 16 counts of murder, attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

The DPCI National Head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya has welcomed the heavy sentence that was imposed on the three accused.

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, Lieutenant General Lebeya said.

Police Minister, General Bheki Cele (MP), has welcomed the multiple long-term sentences which 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 that ensured a watertight case, resulting in the prosecutors securing a successful conviction.

The Minister has assured the public that police will continue to work hard to fulfil the Constitutional mandate towards ensuring the safety and security of the citizens of South Africa. No effort will be spared in finding criminals and making sure that they face the full might of the law.

Source: South African Police Service