Pick n Pay robbery mastermind is free

Dudu Busani

Dudu Busani

Mary Dineo Maleke, 31, the woman accused of being the mastermind behind events that led to the Jeppestown massacre, is free.

Maleke was acquitted on all charges, including conspiracy to commit robbery and two of attempted murder, in the Johannesburg high court yesterday.

But her ex-boyfriend, Senzo Mweli, and his friend Nkosinathi Mchunu, 33, were not so lucky. They were found guilty.

Initially the judge erred and convicted Mweli on the 12 murder charges, only to recall his judgment an hour later.

"I made a mistake regarding accused two (Mweli). He was never charged with those counts by the state and I recall the conviction on those counts... but you are convicted on charges of robbery and attempted murder," Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng said.

Pronouncing the not-guilty verdict, Mokgoatlheng said the state had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Maleke was involved in the robbery.

He said the state had not presented enough evidence to convict Maleke except a statement she made to the police, though, the judge said, he knew that she possibly could have been part of the conspiracy.

"The fact that you are found not guilty does not mean that you are innocent. We are constrained by our laws," the judge said.

Mweli, 28, sat motionless, with his eyes glued to the ground, as the judge convicted him on three counts - robbery with aggravating circumstances and two counts of attempted murder.

The state had alleged that Maleke, a former Pick n Pay employee, conspired with Mweli in planning the supermarket robbery.

Mweli deployed Mchunu and about 16 other men to carry out the robbery.

This led to a shootout with the police at a house in Jeppestown. Four policemen and eight of the robbers were killed in that incident.

Mchunu, who confessed to the robbery during the trial, was found guilty in 19 counts , including the murder of all 12 people who died on that day.

The judge is expected to pronounce the verdict on the other 10 accused soon.