Tuesday 2020-07-07

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‘SIPHO ESCAPED FROM BARBERTON PRISON’

By Sifiso Nhlabatsi | 2020-07-01

MANZINI Principal Magistrate David Khumalo has ruled that Victor Gamedze’s murder suspect, Sipho Shongwe must be surrendered to the South African government so that he can answer for the offences he is wanted for back in that country. 

Yesterday, the principal magistrate in a lengthy judgment ruled that the accused be extradited back to the requesting state which is South Africa.

Khumalo ordered that Shongwe must go back to continue with his 25-year sentence. This was after the principal magistrate in his judgment ruled that Shongwe was released through forged documents at the Barberton Correctional Facility in South Africa.

 Giving a background of the matter the principal magistrate said it is great relief for the court to finally conclude the matter which began way back in 2018 with various applications brought before the it.

The request made by South Africa was that Shongwe be extradited back to there where he will be facing charges which include escaping and absconding, forgery and uttering, and that of having to complete the remainder of his sentence. 

Shongwe is alleged to have escaped from Barberton maximum facility prison while still serving two life sentences which included murder, attempted murder and robbery charges. 

Shongwe, according to the court, was sentenced in March 1, 2001. On March 28, 2008, Shongwe was released based on a liberation warrant and a court order.

This according to the South African government was flawed as the documents used in liberating the accused person were forged. The crown paraded 13 witnesses which included immigration officers, law enforcement officers from South Africa and the High Court officials who confirmed that the release of Shongwe was flawed.

The principal magistrate informed the court on how the Scorpions were hot on Shongwe’s heels after receiving a hint that he was released through fraudulent means but couldn’t effect an arrest as they were informed that Shongwe was in Eswatini. In 2009, the Scorpions were disbanded and the Hawks took over. Ever since there was nothing much done on the case until 2017 when there was a change of head officers at the Barberton Correctional Facility.

Convict

The new officer in-charge at Barberton Maximum Correctional Facility is alleged to have noted that there was one convict who could not be accounted for yet he was supposed to be serving life. 

The officer identified as Nkosi is alleged to have then reported the matter to the police who revived the cold case.

An investigation officer identified as Mashabela was handed the matter and the Director of Public Prosecutions Elizabeth Leonard recommended that a new warrant be made and more charges be laid against Shongwe.

The investigating officer later received a tip that the wanted person was arrested in Eswatini for other offences.

The principal magistrate stated that once investigations were complete, a request was made by the South African director of  public prosecutions to have Shongwe extradited. This is the request that the court was dealing with yesterday. 

Khumalo said this explains what was happening between the period of 2008 to 2018 when Shongwe was released.

When presenting his findings, the principal magistrate stated that the burden to prove the crimes the accused is wanted for lies with the State making the extradition application which in this case, is South Africa.

He said the requesting state has to show that the fugitive in question is wanted to be tried for crimes he committed. 

The principal magistrate dismissed the defense by Shongwe that he could not have had a hand in the facilitation of the forged document. Khumalo cited that there is the section called common purpose whereby a person delegates another person to execute his duties.

The principal magistrate stated that in this case, Shongwe had exhausted all his legal avenues and when the forged documents were presented for his release, whoever came up with the documents had a mandate from Shongwe.

Shongwe’s behaviour after being released from prison, according Khumalo showed that he was avoiding being flagged at port of entries as he avoided immigration officials at all costs.

The principal magistrate said it was no coincidence that Shongwe avoided his passport being stamped on the South African side whenever he visited that country.

“He knew from the outset that liberation was unlawful and it was tantamount to his absconding,” Khumalo stated in his judgment. 

The principal magistrate ruled that Shongwe should be surrendered to the South African authorities.

‘Sipho must first answer Gamedze’s murder case’

The Principal Magistrate David Khumalo declared that Shongwe. 

“Must go back and continue with his sentence,” Khumalo stated.

He further explained that once in South Africa, Shongwe will be at the disposal of the Case Management Committee which will explain to him the duration of his sentence.

 The conditions in which Shongwe would be taken back to South Africa is that he must first answer to the crime of murder he is facing in the country.

Sentence

The principal magistrate stated that if convicted for the crime of murder in Eswatini, the accused person will be expected to serve his sentence and then after that be taken back to South Africa to serve time there.

The principal magistrate also pointed out that should Shongwe be acquitted in the charge he is currently facing, he will then be automatically surrendered to South Africa.

The principal magistrate said everything lies at the hands of the minister involved; the prime minister. 

Khumalo ordered that Shongwe remain in detention pending his trial.

Shongwe used OR Tambo transit section to avoid being flagged from wanted list

Businessman and Victor Gamedze murder suspect Sipho Shongwe is alleged to have been able to stay off the radar for a very long time by tricking South African immigration officials.

It was revealed yesterday before court that Shongwe never had his passport stamped on the South African side whenever he visited that country.

It also surfaced that Shongwe only had his passport stamped on both sides of the border when visiting other countries like Mozambique.

Manzini Principal Magistrate David Khumalo said Shongwe was very strategic in ensuring that he avoids detection at ports of entry.

Shongwe is said to have done his homework by getting to know how to avoid immigration officials at OR Tambo Airport.

This is the only place where Shongwe’s passport is said to have been stamped.

The principal magistrate said witnesses testified on how Shongwe stamped his passport on the transit section. This worked to Shongwe’s advantage because according to an immigration officer who testified in court the transit section at OR Tambo is not able to flag down undesirable persons or wanted suspects.

This is a weak link which Shongwe is alleged to have manipulated in the immigration system. This strategic ducking of immigration officials was not ruled out as a coincidence by the court, but it was seen as something that was done strategically by Shongwe as someone who knew that he had absconded his sentence.

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