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The funeral was for a man who lost his life in a shootout with security guards during a cash-in-transit heist.

Two Eastern Cape women are facing a string of criminal charges after they were allegedly caught on camera giving a deceased friend a gun salute by firing shots in the air at his funeral just days after he died in a shootout with security cash guards in a cash-in-transit heist.

An undertaker is fighting for his life in hospital after he took a bullet to his upper body at the chaotic 15 October funeral.

The funeral of the 30-year-old Simthembile Mkhangeli took place at his ancestral home of Mcetywa Location, outside the rural Eastern Cape town of Tsolo.

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According to the Hawks, Mkhangeli was killed when guards from G4S, SBV and Fidelity were involved in a heavy exchange of gunfire with eight suspected robbers on the N2 highway between KwaBhaca and Mthatha on 2 October.

Arrest

Mkhangeli’s friends Bongo Yonela Dipa, 24, and Chumisa Phunguzwa, 35, are now in hot water after the Hawk’s Provincial Cash-In-Transit Task Team of the Serious Organised Crime Investigation unit identified them in the viral videos of the funeral.

The Hawks arrested the pair on Thursday and dragged it to the Tsolo Magistrate’s Court over allegations of unlawful discharge of firearm, possession of unlicensed firearm and attempted murder.

“The investigation revealed that the pair was among the people that were identified during the alleged incident. Moreover, a comprehensive investigation resulted in the execution of a warrant of arrest which was authorised hence the arrest of the duo on 30 November 2023,” said Hawks spokesperson Warrant Officer Ndimphiwe Mhlakuvana.

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The Tsolo Magistrate’s Court released the duo on R2 000 bail on Friday and the case has been remanded to 5 February 2024 for further investigation. 

Mhlakuvana said a funeral parlour employee was injured due to the shooting incident.

A case docket was opened and transferred to the CIT task team of the Hawks for intensive investigation, said Mhlakuvana.

Viral videos

In the videos, which captured the dramatic funeral service, a well-organised team of heavily armed men and women can be seen doing the gun salutes with assault rifles and hand guns.

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Some of the gang members were wearing bullet proof vests.  

Terrified mourners can be seen hiding under chairs and tables as sounds of AK47 rifles and 9mm pistols rang out.

One woman can be heard shakily asking: “Why are they doing this?”

Some could be heard cheering the gun wielding mourners on.

An impressed woman can be heard in one of the videos yelling: “Amadoda ethu” [These are our men].

Military gun salutes

Civilians are not allowed to do gun salutes for their fallen friends, said forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan.

“The law is clear that weapons may only be discharged on a licensed firing range, or in use for legitimate purposes, such as lawful hunting, lawful competition, or lawful self defence,” said O’Sullivan.

Even when the military do a salute to a deceased serviceman, they only fire blanks, added O’Sullivan.   

O’Sullivan said projectiles are just as lethal coming down, as they were when discharged from the muzzle of a gun.

According to O’Sullivan, who is a member of the American Society of Criminology and European Society of Criminology, many unlicensed firearms are sold on the black market and are leftovers of civil wars in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Gun Act

The Firearms Controls Act, rules that it is an offence to:

(a) cause bodily injury to any person or cause damage to property of any person by negligently using a firearm, an antique firearm or an airgun;

(b) discharge or otherwise handle a firearm, an antique firearm or an airgun in a manner likely to injure or endanger the safety or property of any person or with reckless disregard for the safety or property of any person; or

(c) have control of a loaded firearm, an antique firearm or an airgun in circumstances where it creates a risk to the safety or property of any person and not to take reasonable precautions to avoid the danger.

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