Michael Manyana, 51, and Millicent Mkhwanazi, 48, were sentenced by the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court in December to 53 and 50 years respectively for their roles as the syndicate’s leaders.
They preyed on pensioners, students and tourists for more than seven years between 2005 and 2012.
Mkhwanazi broke down during the trial and pleaded for leniency, but Manyana refused to admit he appeared in CCTV footage that was central in convicting the pair.
Another angle on the scam –
His face was clearly visible in at least five video clips but he still insisted it was not he. Even close-up photographs presented in court by a CCTV analyst could not convince him to admit his guilt.
Mkhwanazi’s advocate, Martin Williams, said: “We were expecting a harsh sentence but not that harsh. She will be 75 – if she lives that long – before she is eligible for parole.” Williams said he would appeal the sentence in the Cape Town High Court.
“I think [the sentences] are going to send a very strong message to people involved in this kind of offence that the courts are taking it extremely seriously,” he said.
Ntabazalila said the magistrate took into consideration the effect such crimes had on the economy and tourism, and that the syndicate targeted vulnerable people, including pensioners.
In another video shown in court, Manyana and Mkhwanazi are seen on an escalator near a busy row of ATMs in December 2011. Once they had identified their victims – two female tourists – Mkhwanazi occupied one of the ATMs.
Manyana pushed in front of the women and pressed the “cardless transaction” button. The flustered victims were then coaxed into putting in their pin number, which Mkhwanazi was able to see by “shoulder-surfing”. Manyana then stole their card through sleight of hand and later withdrew R20,000.