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Substantial Sentences Handed Down to July Unrest Looters in KZN



people looting at businesses in the Pietermaritzburg CBD during the 2021 July unrest

In the aftermath of the tumultuous civil unrest that swept through KwaZulu-Natal in July 2021, a legal course has culminated in the conviction of five individuals. This verdict has resulted in their imprisonment and the state’s confiscation of a bakkie owned by one of the culprits. The incident centred around theft during the chaos of looting has brought justice to the forefront.

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The five individuals, Mduduzi Buthelezi (52), Sphelele Mazibuko (22), Mandla Ngcobo (59), John Thobela (46), and Sabelo Shandu (23), were deemed guilty of stealing a substantial haul of 60 boxes of meat. The targeted establishment was Chersterville’s Ayoba Cold Storage in Durban.

The scale of the looting and civil unrest is accentuated by the grim aftermath that unfolded. KwaZulu-Natal’s National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson, Natasha Ramkisson-Kara, highlighted that the business suffered looting and was partially consumed by flames, a stark reminder of the havoc that transpired.

This establishment, headed by the proprietor Mr. Luthuli (67), bore the weight of the stolen goods. His business, a conduit for imported meat from Brazil distributed to numerous franchises and stores, was severely impacted. The looting entailed a loss of millions of rands, a blow from which recovery remains an ongoing struggle.


The legal trajectory that unfolded sheds light on the sequence of events. Following the chaos, police undertook a stop-and-search operation in the area. Their attention was drawn to a bakkie operated by one of the accused, transporting around 60 boxes, atop which his co-conspirators were perched. The subsequent identification of the stolen goods by Mr Luthuli solidified the case against them.

Prosecutor Shenaaz Hoosen steered the trial in the Durban District Court. The testimonies of the investigating officer and Mr. Luthuli formed a pivotal foundation for the case. Luthuli’s ability to recognize his stolen goods was attributed to the Brazil stickers adorning the boxes, a distinctive marker that validated his ownership. The extensive ramifications of the looting became evident through his testimony, as he revealed the staggering financial loss, amounting to millions of rands, that he is yet to recuperate.

The legal resolution led to the imposition of sentences that mirror the gravity of the offence. Buthelezi, Ngcobo, and Thobela each received a substantial ten years of imprisonment, signifying the severity of their actions. On the other hand, Mazibuko and Shandu were sentenced to five years behind bars, a measure commensurate with their roles in the crime.

Moreover, the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), represented by State Advocate Sakhile Ngcobo and Senior Special Investigator Akbar Ally, obtained a significant high court order. This judicial order facilitated the attachment of Thobela’s bakkie, a pivotal element in the looting incident.

A sense of hope for deterrence underscores the culmination of this legal process. Ramkisson-Kara expressed optimism that the pronounced sentences will serve as a deterrent, curbing similar offences. The commendation extended to the prosecution and investigation teams is a testament to the collaborative pursuit of justice amid challenging circumstances.


Source: Hefty sentences in KZN for July unrest looters

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Photo: Supplied by the Citizen

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