Zwelithini Gwebelele, 43, Masimthembe Mbashe, 36, and Mawande Nkomo, 33, have each been sentenced in the Mthatha High Court to two life imprisonment terms for the 2011 murders of two police constables, the Eastern Cape Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) said on Sunday.
Gwebelele, Mbashe, and Nkomo, and a 31-year-old accomplice who had since died, robbed a Somali spaza shop in Tsomo on October 21, 2011, Captain Anelisa Feni said.
As the robbery was taking place, the then 38-year-old Somali shopkeeper’s screams for help were heard by a community member who alerted the police. Constables Nkosiphendule Matiwane, 30, and Sithembele Alex Mbadlanyana, 30, swiftly responded.
A shoot-out ensued between the officers and the robbers which resulted in the death of the two officers. Gwebelele, Mbashe, Nkomo, and the 31-year-old accomplice who was apparently wounded in the shoot-out, pushed the bodies of Matiwane and Mbadlanyana out of the police van onto the street and drove off.
During their getaway they dumped the 31-year-old accomplice in a nearby forest where he subsequently died of his wounds. An investigation ensued and the three were finally arrested in 2012. They had remained in custody since then.