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By Dudu Dube | May 27, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THE 13 men involved in the R100million airport heist planned to shoot anyone who tried to stop them, even if it meant killing innocent people.

THE 13 men involved in the R100million airport heist planned to shoot anyone who tried to stop them, even if it meant killing innocent people.

One of the robbers, Nazir Ismail, a former Airports Company South Africa employee, told the Johannesburg high court yesterday that while they were planning the raid he pleaded with his accomplices not to use violence.

"They planned to shoot their way in at the VIP gate and straight to the aircraft.

"I told them that was a bad idea because if one of the bullets hit an aircraft while it was refuelling, it would cause the whole airport to blow up in flames. Actually the whole East Rand. But they said they did not care, all they wanted was to get the money," he said.

Ismail was on his second day in the witness stand. He and another former Acsa employee, Sean Soobramoney, pleaded guilty to armed robbery and were given a 20-year suspended sentence. They are the main state witnesses.

Fox Sithole, Eddie Ubisi, Ronny Mbuyisa, Ananias Nefumembe, Uakareraije Maunda, Thokozani Ziqubu, Vusumzi Dlangalala, Cecil Arendse and Christopher Billings pleaded not guilty and are standing trial.

Ismail gave a detailed description of how the robbery was planned and who was involved.

"Chris (Billings) came to my house with Roshdin one morning. They wanted me to get involved," he said.

Ismail said a week later Billings phoned him to say the robbers were getting impatient.

"The next day Chris and I went to his house in Germiston. I thought there would be a few people but there were more than 14 men.

"David Magwaza did most of the talking and he wanted consensus from the group as to how the plan would be executed. We were then told about a guy called Mthimbana who worked at the airport and was the one giving out inside information," he said.

Magwaza and Mthimbana died soon after they were arrested.

Ismail said he was not comfortable with the plan, so he decided to organise permits to enter the airport from Soobramoney, who was an Acsa wildlife control officer then.

"Sean could organise permits because he had the authority to bring in people from outside to assist him with his work," Ismail said. "I phoned him and asked for 15 permits. I said I needed them for construction workers.

"The next day I went to meet him and he gave me the permits. I then told him the truth. Sean thought the plan was silly and said there was an alternative. He said it would be better to use the new complex that was being built because there were a lot of people coming in and out of the gate.

"Sean was well known among the security guards. If you walked in with him they would not search you or ask questions."

Ismail said he arranged a meeting between Soobramoney and Billings for the following day.

Ismail pointed out Rudolph Billings, Sithole and Mbuyisa as the people who were present at the meeting.

Soobramoney is expected to testify next.


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