Lengthy terms for armed robbers

Three Port Elizabeth men were sentenced yesterday to hefty jail terms for the armed robbery of a Queenstown supermarket in 2014 and the murder of an accomplice.

Judge John Smith sentenced Luvuyo Thomas, 38, and Solomzi Williams, 49, to an effective 25 years’ imprisonment each and Luzuko Mhlauli, 34, to 20.

The three men, armed with semi-automatic guns, pushed their way into Sparg’s Superspar in Queenstown early one November morning in 2014 just as the store was being opened for employees.

They pistol-whipped and forced manager Bryan Kretchmer to open offices, safes and an ATM.

A member of the public noticed something amiss and police were on the scene in minutes.

As the men emerged from the supermarket, police were waiting and a gunfight broke out.

One of the armed robbers, Khayalethu Hotata, died in the shootout with police.

Some members of the gang escaped but Mhlauli, Thomas and Williams were caught.

All three were convicted of armed robbery and the murder of Hotata. Mhlauli and Williams were also convicted of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

It emerged yesterday that Thomas was in fact due to attend another trial in which he faced two counts of armed robbery in Queenstown on the day of the armed robbery.

He was subsequently found guilty of the other two armed robberies and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for those two offences.

Smith ruled that five years of Thomas’s effective 25-year sentence in this case should run concurrently with the 15-year sentence he is currently serving for the two other armed robberies.

If he serves his full sentences, Thomas will be 73 before he is a free man again.

Smith yesterday ruled that the aggravating circumstances of the robbery far outweighed the mitigating circumstances of each of the accused.

“You were all carrying firearms and were prepared to use them to deal with any resistance encountered,” Smith said.

“You executed the robbery in a brazen manner with no regard for the safety of innocent bystanders.”

In addition, while Thomas had been due to appear in court on serious charges on the same day, he committed the armed robbery, while Williams had only recently been released on parole.

All three also had previous convictions.

Williams had previous convictions for murder and attempted murder, Thomas had committed other armed robberies and Mhlauli had previously been convicted of theft and housebreaking with intent to steal.

Thomas was defended by Templeton Solani, while Mhlauli and Williams were represented by Basil Williams (no relation).

Senior state advocate Heinz Obermeyer prosecuted.

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