Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau—
Three Zimbabwean cross-border transporters were on Monday jailed for 632 years by a South African High Court after they were convicted of 62 charges ranging from murder, robbery, extortion and rape among other violent crimes perpetrated in that country.The trio was found guilty following a fully contested trial at the South Gauteng High Court (Palm Ridge).
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 are part of a gang that unleashed a reign of terror on Zimbabweans visiting that country.
Luphahla earned the name “Satan” for going the extra mile in his bid to outclass the devil in the underworld of crime, south of the Limpopo River.
He earned himself eight life sentences and another 632 years behind bars for killing two women and raping, robbing, assaulting several others.
His brother, Sibanda, will serve seven life sentences for the same crimes.
Sicelo, who at the beginning of the trial, claimed to be a South African, but later turned out to be a Zimbabwean when it was discovered that she was using fraudulently acquired identification documents.
She was condemned to two life sentences and 692 years behind bars.
Sources close to the case said yesterday that Sicelo is a cousin to both Luphahla and Sibanda, and that they had been operating the syndicate since 2012.
The woman is also reported to be the masterminded of all the rape cases against the kidnap victims.
The gang’s ringleader, Charles Cecil Brewer, alias Boss, of Nketa 7 in Bulawayo, who joined the gang in 2014, 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 with 350 years imprisonment but was left with 20 years to serve following a plea bargain with the State, to become their star witness.
The trial had over 26 witnesses.
The gang is accused of kidnapping more than 100 Zimbabweans and killing several others including two Harare women between May 30 and July 11 last year.
Brewer and associates have been languishing 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 a 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 prac- titioners.
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.
Zimbabwe’s Consul-General, Mr Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro, said the gang had been operating from Total and Engen filling stations and a house in Musina, where they pounced on Zimbabwean hitch-hikers travelling to Gauteng province.
He said they used private vehicles and touts to lure the unsuspecting victims into their cars, whom they then kidnapped and detained at various houses upon reaching Johannes- burg.
“We welcome the sentencing and appreciate the work by both the police and the justice system. We want to urge our people to always use registered public transporters rather than putting their lives or those of their loved ones in danger,” he said.