The High Court of South Africa: Western Cape Division has sentenced Gcinithemba Bheja and Fundile Maseti, members of the Gupta gang, to seven life sentences and 45 years direct imprisonment following their conviction for a mass shooting in Khayelitsha, four years ago. Bheja and Maseti were convicted for the murders of Ntandazo ‘Ntera’ Makhetha, Thembelani Sihlali, Akhona Cuba, Lisa Kalpens, Bongani Lonert Stiwa, Tabita Mgidlana and Monwabisi Nolusu and Ntera. They were also convicted for the attempted murders of Sipho Mtshikwe, Minentle Simanga and Abongile Mbi, and illegal possession of a firearm and illegal possession of ammunition. They were sentenced to life imprisonment for each murder, five years direct imprisonment for each attempted murder, 15 years direct imprisonment for illegal possession of a firearm and 15 years direct imprisonment for illegal possession of ammunition. The court ordered the sentences to run concurrently and declared them unfit to possess a firearm.

Adv Pulane Thaiteng, proved the State’s case beyond reasonable doubt leading to the conviction of the accused despite insurmountable challenges facing the case. Adv Thaiteng used a single witness who had to be in the witness protection as members of the Gupta gang members looked. They even travelled to his Eastern Cape village looking for him. Adv Thaiteng led evidence that Ntera hosted a birthday party braai at his house at Q166, Sihawu Street, Site B, Khayelitsha, on the evening of 07 March 2020. Family members, friends, and patrons of his tavern attended the party. At the time Ntera and the two accused were members of the Gupta gang who broke away from the Boko Haram gang. The gang extorted money from local businesses but mainly targeted Somali businesses from whom they demanded protection fees. Failure to pay led to the robbery of the business and even the killing of the owner. There were tensions over turf among the Gupta gang members from the Y Section and those staying in the Q Section where Ntera stayed.

The single witness, Mr X, told the court that he and his two friends met Ntera as he was rushing back to his house. He noticed that he had blood oozing around his rib cage and had a firearm on his waist. He asked him repeatedly what was happening and Ntera promised to tell him the next morning and all would be fine. Ntera asked Mr X and his friends to help him jump over a wall at the back of the house and they did. Shortly after, a sedan stopped in front of the house and four men two armed with long guns and two accused with small guns came out and started shooting towards the house with the party. They went into the house and started shooting randomly from inside the house and from outside running around the property. They then walked backwards to their vehicle while shooting at people in the house. Another witness testified that Ntera’s six-year-old daughter was hit by one of the gunmen while she was sitting on the lap of one of the deceased. The gunman also kicked the child.

Mr X also testified that after the police arrived and were busy taking statements from the witnesses, he noticed two of the shooters, whom he knows very well, at the scene watching and listening to those who were giving statements to the police. One of the shooters even crossed the police barrier to listen to statements two women were giving to the police. In his affidavit, investigating officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nceba Mathentamo told the court that there was an element of fear in the community. No one wanted to be seen talking to the police. He noticed that witnesses held some information back from the police and because of that the case relied on a single witness as they did not want to assist.

Handing down the sentence, Judge Daniel Thulare said the accused showed no remorse and had no pain of conscience for the plight of the deceased, the injured or the fear which gripped the community of Khayelitsha and beyond. They took more than one life in a very callous manner to instill fear so that they become unstable to support their greed. The circumstances surrounding the multiple killings of innocent partygoers simply to send a message to a competing gangster who used to be their friend and partner in crime that they will not tolerate any betrayal and disturbance of their territory for extortion Is alarming. Whilst extortion has become fashionable and a few members of the SAPS in Khayelitsha have become partners in that criminal enterprise, the conviction and sentence in this matter gave hope that the with help of community members like Mr X, the industry of the Anti-Gang Unit members and other members of the SAPS who are not moved by corruption and other role players like fearless members of the National Prosecuting Authority, South African was on its path to win the battle.

Western Cape Director of Public Prosecutions, Adv Nicolette Bell applauded the investigating officer and Adv Thaiteng for her guidance during the investigation and for putting up a strong case that led to this conviction. She also applauded Mr X for his brave decision to testify despite threats to his life and his resolve to ensure those who commit these heinous crimes will be sent to jail.

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