Durban – A Bluff businessman says he thought he was lucky when he bought a car for far less than its book value, but the vehicle has since landed him in jail.
Kubendran Govender, who sells cars and spares, was on Friday sentenced to five years imprisonment at the Durban Regional Court for being in possession of a stolen Kia Cerato.
He was arrested on October 23, 2018 in Manguzi, northern KwaZulu-Natal, near the South African and Mozambique border post.
He was attempting to cross the border with the vehicle.
The arrest happened a few hours after Londeka Gumede had reported that she had been hijacked and her Kia Cerato vehicle stolen in the KwaMakhutha area, south of Durban.
Govender, 42, was charged for robbery with aggravating circumstances and fraud.
It was also alleged that Govender had a falsified document indicating Gumede’s permission for him to be in possession of the vehicle when crossing the border, hence the fraud charge.
Magistrate Anand Maharaj convicted Govender on a subsidiary theft charge and acquitted him on the fraud count. He had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Govender’s version was that he struck a deal with a person named “Sifiso”, who brought the car to him on October 17. Sifiso was known to him, Govender told the court. He bought the vehicle for R15000, even though it was valued at R70000 at the time.
Govender paid Sifiso R11500 and agreed to pay the balance when he returned from his trip to Mozambique.
Govender said he “double-checked” before his trip to Mozambique in the Kia whether the vehicle was stolen.
State prosecutor Kuveshni Pillay presented Geogino Balakisten as a Section 204 witness (someone who is a party to a crime, but testifies against others).
Balakisten, who worked for Govender, confirmed he was present when the deal was done and Sifiso promised to return with the vehicle’s log book at a later date. He testified that he had fraudulently drawn up the purchase and sale agreement after Govender was arrested and he was assisted by a senior officer stationed at the Saps vehicle pound in Isipingo.
Balakisten said the officer called to check how Govender was doing in detention in Manguzi and suggested they draw up the purchase and sale document. The officer provided Balakisten with details about the vehicle, which were inserted in the agreement.
Balakisten told the court that another policeman drove in a private vehicle to Manguzi to secure Govender’s release and present the “real suspects” who stole the Kia. The officer was told that Govender had been detained because he did not have the required documentation, including the owner’s identity document.
Gumede was among the State’s other witnesses.
Govender, who was represented by advocate Bheki Manyathi, testified along with Keyrish Sewram, a businessman who traded in cars in Isipingo.
Sewram told the court that Sifiso had initially approached him about buying the Kia. He then directed Sifiso to Govender and provided him with his contact details. He was unable to answer when Pillay asked why he had not included Sifiso’s name in the statement he submitted previously .
In reviewing the witnesses’ evidence, Maharaj said Balakisten was not an S204 witness and his evidence exonerated Govender.
Maharaj was also at odds with Balakisten’s version of the agreed purchase price and his claim that the vehicle was to be kept for a month before its sale. “He (Balakisten) is a stranger to the truth and a pathological liar. In my view it was folly that the state called him as a witness.”
He said Gumede’s evidence was satisfactory and she had the vehicle’s log book in her possession, which cleared doubt that she might have had a hand in the hijacking.
Regarding Sewram’s evidence, Maharaj found it strange he shared Govender’s details with Sifiso. “Govender said Sifiso was known to him.”
The magistrate said Govender was an unsatisfactory witness and had “difficulty” explaining his payment plan with Sifiso. He said Govender was “very economical” with his version of why he drove to Mozambique.
“He has a spares shop, he has 30 cars not yet fixed in his yard, but he used the Kia even though it had serious mechanical defects. It is a very improbable story.”
Maharaj said Govender had an “epiphany” that the vehicle might be stolen and checked if it had been stolen on October 19 and 22, instead of on the purchase date (October 17).
He said Govender was convicted because he didn’t provide a “reasonable explanation” for being in possession of the car.
Maharaj also expressed concern why the two policemen attempted to assist Govender, if the evidence led in court was true.
In asking for Govender’s direct imprisonment, Pillay said he was a “smart businessman” who acted out of greed and believed he had landed a “luck”.
Manyathi was granted leave to appeal but Maharaj revoked the bail. The magistrate agreed with Pillay that Govender was “au fait with crossing the border” and a potential flight risk.