Teacher-thief 'a man about town'

Riot Hlatshwayo

Elone Sibuyi, the 35-year-old schoolteacher killed after robbing a petrol station in Thulamahashe on Monday, might have been desperate for money to sponsor his expensive lifestyle this festive season.

Sibuyi had recently buried two members of his family and was apparently broke.

In the early hours of Monday the respected teacher at Soshangana High School in Buyisonto village turned into a lone bandit and pounced on the employees of a local garage.

Wearing a balaclava and brandishing a firearm, he robbed them of about R3500 and fled.

A guard at the petrol station fired several shots at a fleeing Sibuyi, who died a few metres away.

On hearing the news, the communities of Thulamahashe and Buyisonto were shocked.

Sibuyi was described as a "party animal", always dressed in designer clothes.

Those who knew him said he was "a softly-spoken man" who liked expensive clothes and parties.

Shangaan chief Eric Nxumalo was shocked by Sibuyi's death.

He said the slain teacher worked as a clerk at the Amashangana tribal authority and was "reliable".

Richard Baloyi, of Thulamahashe Against Crime, said locals respected Sibuyi, who was renowned for having plenty of money.

Baloyi said Sibuyi recently buried two members of his family, including a brother.

"The funerals might have dried him up," said Baloyi

Sibuyi recently married a local clothing shop employee named Bridget.

He rented a room in Thulamahashe and commuted to work in Buyisonto.

A Mopani police spokesman, Superintendent Moatshe Ngoepe, said the firearm found next to Sibuyi had been sent for ballistic tests to determine if it had been used in other criminal activities.

The petrol station manager, Cecil Ngobeni, said it was sad that "a qualified teacher" had to die for a few thousand rands.

"When my staff called to tell me that there had been an armed robbery at the station I was under the impression that more than R50000 might have been stolen."

He said he had been warned by the police that his petrol station might be targeted by robbers. His response was that Thulamahashe was "not a playground" for robbers.