DETECTIVES believe the alleged gang of robbers who attacked the KwaDwesi branch of Absa in March 2010 took a computer hard-drive with them when they fled the scene in the mistaken belief that it contained the security footage of the incident.
Lieutenant Rhynhardt Swanepoel, the investigating officer in the case, told the Port Elizabeth High Court he analysed security footage of the robbery and clearly identified the two accused before court and the five suspected robbers who were later shot dead in a wild roadside standoff by the police’s Tactical Response Team.
The two surviving alleged members of the gang, Mpumelelo Lennox Mkize, 57, of New Brighton, and Mazizi Mbatyoti, 36, of Kwazakhele, have pleaded not guilty to a charge of robbery with aggravating circumstances, five charges of murder and two of possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
The murder charges relate to the deaths of their five alleged accomplices – Kolisile Patrick Fulela, Andrew Piko, Lungile Martin Hlutywa, Lungile Price Mqekelani and Ndavela Ivan Made – who were killed in a shoot-out with the police following the robbery.
Mbatyoti’s lawyer, James O’Reilly, said his client would admit he was shot in the leg and arrested at the Ziyabuya complex where the bank robbery took place.
In one shot of security footage shown in court, Mkhize is seen looking almost straight into one of the 16 security cameras mounted around the bank.
Swanepoel said the footage showed seven men entering the bank at about 12.35pm.
One of the men, Made, entered the bank first, while Hlutywa was armed with an Uzzi machine-gun. "They were all armed,” Swanepoel said.
He added that the footage, however, did not show that Mbatyoti was armed, but when he was arrested he had a firearm on him.
"Their attitude was very clear. Members of the public had to face the barrel of that automatic firearm,” Swanepoel said.
He later testified that the footage also showed the robbers pushing some of the bank’s clients around and how they took a red bag from one of the members of the public.
He said it was clear from the footage that once the robbers were outside they were looking around to see if the police had arrived yet.
Swanepoel said the footage also showed how Mkize went into the branch manager’s office and took a computer box.
"This was later found on the back of the bakkie [the alleged robbers’ getaway vehicle]. I assume they thought it was the box with the security footage,” he said.
The trial continues today.