Lesotho Times

Cameras betray dumb crooks

MASERU — A petrol attendant at Excel Filling station along Pope John Paul II Road in Maseru must have thought he had hit a jackpot when he broke into his employer’s office and stole cash and cheques.
Thabiso Mabote, 25, had only been employed at the station for three months when he connived with two Highlands Security officers — Bonang Mapola, 20, and Nkuebe Malewa, 25, — who were guarding the premises to break into the office.
A few minutes before midnight on January 8 the trio executed their plan.
They broke into Jonny Lin’s office through the back window.
Mabote’s small frame helped him squeeze through the window.
It looked like a foolproof heist planned over a long time.
But little did they know that Lin had “hired” an incorruptible guard — a closed circuit television (CCTV) to watch the place including the guards.  
And on that day the CCTV watched as the guards turned trespassers.
It is the images from CCTV that eventually nailed the trio.
“When I asked them whether they knew anything about the break in they said they were not aware of anything, ” Lin said.
“I wanted to give them a chance to come out clean but they remained adamant that they did not know anything about it,” he said.
Even when Lin called the police they still denied any connection to the break in.
“But when I played back the video they just looked shocked. They were immediately arrested by the police,” Lin said.
The video shows Mabote ransacking the office and breaking into the cash box.
It also shows him staffing his pockets with cheque leaves which he later kept for himself when the trio was sharing the loot.
Ironically Mabote was using Lin’s tools in the office to break the cash box.
It took him nearly half an hour to break the cash box. 
It also shows him switching off the CCTV computer monitor in the office apparently under the belief that the system would not work. 
“He came in at about 11:45pm and it appears that they had planned this over a long time. The only problem is that they did not know that switching off the monitor does not switch off the system.”
The trio went to an open room at the station where they shared their “bounty” of coins worth M1 800.
Mabote did not share the cheque leaves with others.  
Most of the money was recovered but Mapola told the police that he had already used his share to buy liquor.
Mabote and Malewa were caught before they could spend the money.
The trio’s day of reckoning came on Tuesday when the Maseru Magistrate Court slapped them with a one-year jail term each for housebreaking and theft.
This was after they had pleaded guilty to the offence.
But they tried to justify their actions when asked to mitigate their cases.
“I ask the mercy of the court because my wife is pregnant and I have a child who is going to school. I’m very sorry about what I did but I have not been paid for the past three months and I’m starving. We had even complained on radio stations that we had not been paid,” said Malewa.
Mabote said: “I have no parents and I’m supposed to go to school and pay for the school fees for my young siblings. My salary has been cut after an agreement with Mr Lin and he only paid me M160. The cheques were taken by mistake.”
Mapola said he has not been paid for three months and his brother was at an initiation school.
“I don’t even have money for transport. I beg for the court’s mercy,” he said bowing down his head seemingly afraid to look the magistrate in the eye.
The convicts paid their fine of M1 000 each and avoided jail.

Lesotho Times

Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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