Durban — Two men charged with the theft of eThekwini Municipality street lights valued at R156 000 were granted R10 000 bail each in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
This was despite the State opposing bail for the two Mozambican nationals on the grounds that they were a flight risk.
Hermino Nelson Afonso and Salomon Antonio Zibia were arrested at the Mozambican border for the theft of street-light fittings identified as the property of the municipality.
Police and border management at Kosi Bay, while searching vehicles, came upon a van with a trailer. When it was searched the lights were found and these still had the city’s emblem on them. Some were in the bin of the van, while others were in the trailer.
The lights were positively identified by city officials. They are alleged to have been stolen from the city’s storage shop in Springfield Park. According to the charge sheet, Afonso and Zibia are alleged to have stolen the lights in Springfield on November 11.
Earlier this month the Daily News reported that a preliminary report revealed possible collusion between the municipality’s electricity department staff and the two men.
The city’s electricity head, Maxwell Mthembu, told the publication that an internal investigation had pointed to an organised syndicate operating with internal and external people to steal the critical infrastructure.
In court, both accused pleaded not guilty. Afonso, who is self-employed and transports goods between South Africa and Mozambique, told the court that he obtained the lights from a man he named as Nando in Clermont on November 11 at 4am and was to transport them to Mozambique.
“I am willing to co-operate with the State and I have been doing so since my arrest. I gave police Nando’s name and the location where we met. On November 11 I got a call from Zibia who asked for a lift to Mozambique as he had been left behind by someone who had promised him a lift.
“I told him I’d pick him up at Sydenham. I picked him up around 5am,” said the 44-year-old.
He said he was born and raised in Maputo and when in South Africa he lived in Sydenham with a friend.
The father of three said before his arrest he had been living in Sydenham since February 2022.
“If I get bail, I will live at that address. When I was arrested I told the police about the Sydenham address. I came to South Africa in 2000 and have had no brush with the law. I intend to remain in South Africa till the matter is finished,” he said.
In his affidavit, Zibia said he knew Afonso from Maputo and had known him since 2009.
“I had asked him for a lift to Mozambique and he said I must meet him at 5am at his place of residence in Sydenham, which I did. He came and picked me up. I was not there when the stolen property was loaded into the car. I was going to finish some work in Mozambique,” said the father of one.
He explained that he worked as a carpenter specialising in the installation of cupboards, adding that at the time of his arrest, some of the material he was going to use in Mozambique to finish a job was with him, adding that he had a slip to prove this.
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