South Africa: Hawks Welcome Life Sentences for Police Murder Convicts

press release

Pretoria — Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation National Head, Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya has welcomed a hefty life sentence handed down to police murder accused. The accused were sentenced on Friday by the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

The seven accused, Winston Sibiya (64), Mchazeleni Gwabaza (34), Nkululeko Lovey Mkhwane (26), Sonnyboy Matthews Mkhwane (41), Siyabonga Dlwathi (32), Mxolisi Mazibuko (32), and Sthembiso Vincent Khumalo (33) were sentenced to life imprisonment and seventy more years each for counts of murder of police officers, attempted murder, unlawful possession of prohibited firearms, unlawful possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, and robbery with aggravating circumstances on Friday.

On July 2015, Sergeant Selby Celimpilo Hlabisa and his colleague Sergeant Mashudu Ramabulana were on patrol duties when they responded to a robbery crime scene in Jeppestown. They positively identified the suspected vehicle which earlier on allegedly robbed a shop. Upon approaching the accused's vehicle, the accused shot and fatally wounded Sgt Hlabisa while Sgt Ramabulana escaped unharmed. Three of the suspects were shot and injured during a shoot-out with Sgt Ramabulana. The ten suspects ran towards Jeppe hostel fleeing with the police R5 rifle.

Police responded to the incident and followed the suspects into the hostel. A search took place where all the hostel's residents were ordered to vacate from their rooms. Three suspects with gunshot wounds were identified and arrested with two more who were trying to flee.

In a separate incident during September 2015, two police officers, Warrant Officer Mchizane and Constable Bamjee Maluleke from the Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) in Soweto were ambushed execution style by eight unknown suspects in Dobsonville on their way to the office in Protea SAPS. Further investigation led to the arrest of six suspects linked to the FCS police murder and also the armed robbery of the liquor in Braamfischer, Soweto.

Police followed on intelligence information to Escort in KwaZulu Natal and Sibusiso Kumalo. Sengiwakhile Mkhize and Phumulani Chabalala were arrested on the N3 in Heidelberg. A shoot out ensued and they were both fatally wounded. Police recovered an R5 rifle which was later linked to the Jeppe police murder where Sgt Hlabisa was fatally wounded.

Mxolisi Mazibuko and Mzwakhe Thebethe were arrested at Meadowlands in Soweto respectively, and Simphiwe Mswane was arrested in Johanneburg. During trial in February 2018, three of the accused, Mswane, Thabethe, and Mazibuko escaped from lawful custody on their way back to Johannesburg Correctional Detention Centre. The trio were successfully traced resulting in them being rearrested. Mswane was shot and killed during the arrest in Escourt KwaZulu Natal. Thabethe was shot and killed in Vosloorus and Mazibuko was rearrested in Kliptown, Soweto.

The seven accused linked to the police murder cases in Jeppe and Dobsonville respectively, Winston Sibiya (64), Mchazeleni Gwabaza (34), Nkululeko Lovey Mkhwane (26), Sonnyboy Matthews Mkhwane (41), Siyabonga Dlwathi (32), Mxolisi Mazibuko (32), and Sthembiso Vincent Khumalo (33) were found guilty on 16 September 2019 at the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

The seven accused were sentenced on Friday, 08 November 2019 on the following counts; count 1 life imprisonment for murder, count 2 fifteen years direct imprisonment for attempted murder, count 3 twenty years direct imprisonment for robbery with aggravating circumstances, count 4 fifteen years direct imprisonment for unlawful possession of prohibited firearms, count 5 five years direct imprisonment for unlawful possession of ammunition, and count 6 fifteen years direct imprisonment for unlawful possession of unlicensed firearms. An R5 rifle, five AK 47, and three 9mm pistols were recovered during the arrests.

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