Mhlongo off the hook
Mbombela - The case against Orlando Pirates midfielder Benson Mhlongo, who was caught with an unlicensed gun in his car, was withdrawn in the Nelspruit Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.
Charges were also withdrawn against four of his five co-accused, all of whom come from Johannesburg, when one of them took the wrap.
Siyabonga Mhlanga, 33, pleaded guilty to possession of the firearm and ammunition, saying that the weapon belonged to a man called Sipho who had given it to him as security after borrowing money.
Mhlanga was found guilty and fined R4 000. Half of the fine was suspended for two years.
His lawyer, Slungu Thobela, had argued for a lenient sentence.
"The fact that the accused is a breadwinner should be taken into consideration," said Thobela. "He is a carpenter in Johannesburg, with an unemployed wife and two children. He has also never committed an offence before."
State prosecutor Brian Mogale had urged Magistrate Power Sambo not to take the matter lightly.
"Offences are committed every day, and most of them with firearms," he said. I am very disappointed with the defence for not taking this matter seriously."
When passing sentence, Magistrate Sambo agreed that the offence was serious and that people in possession of firearms were a danger to society.
He noted, however, that Mhlanga had shown remorse.
Other than Mhlongo, the four others who are off the hook are: Precious Bunde, 20, Bonny Ngobese, 21, Thokozane Mbatha, 32, and Mlungisi Nkosi, 22.
Nkosi did not appear in court on Tuesday as he is in custody at Johannesburg Central Prison for a separate murder charge.
The six were arrested by members of the police's flying squad outside Mbombela on October 20. Mhlongo has family in the area.
The police searched Mhlongo's BMW 5-series and found the gun and ammunition.
The six suspects appeared in court that same day and all, except Nkosi, were granted bail of R1 000. Nkosi's bail was set at R2 000 because of the murder charge against him.