“The appellants are professional bank robbers. They robbed banks at gunpoint for a living. Fortunately, they were not very good at it and they did not kill or physically injure anyone.”

This was the prologue to a judgment delivered in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, during which two Zimbabwean nationals, who admitted that their profession was robbing banks, appealed against their sentences. Khumbulani Sibanda and Bongani Moyo, both 30, were best friends and when they came to South Africa, they decided to embark on a career of crime to support their families back in Zimbabwe.

The pair pleaded guilty to an array of charges, including six charges of armed robbery.

Sibanda was sentenced to an effective 55 years' imprisonment, while Moyo got 62.

Both men earlier testified in mitigation of sentence.

Their circumstances were similar. They left their families behind in Zimbabwe and came to South Africa to escape the grinding poverty that affects many Zimbabweans.

Both said they chose to live a life a crime here and they didn’t have any loyalty towards South Africa.

“In my view they behaved like predators who regarded South Africa as a resource to be exploited,” Judge Neil Tuchten said.

The men joined a gang of armed robbers shortly after they entered South Africa and executed a number of bank robberies in Gauteng and the North West.

Using firearms, they forced their victims to hand over the cash and they collected about R235000 between them.

The pair felt that the effective sentences meted out to them previously was shockingly harsh. Their counsel argued that the fact that they had pleaded guilty, showed they had remorse for what they had done.

But the judge who previously sentenced them said he observed them in the witness box and he did not believe they had a shred of remorse.

Judge Tuchten said he was not convinced that judge was wrong in coming to this finding.

However, he pointed out that the Supreme Court of Appeal in the past had criticised the so-called Methuselah sentences meted out.

These are sentences which are so long that if served in full the prisoner will have no chance being released on parole.

Judge Tuchten said the pair had demonstrated a remote prospect of ever being rehabilitated and had chosen a way of life which endangered the lives of law-abiding people in this country.

“It is fortunate indeed that no loss of life occurred during these robberies But their chosen way of life requires bodily energy that will diminish as they get older. It is unlikely that when the appellants become old, they will have the physical capacity to prey on the public as they have done.”

Judge Tuchten subsequently reduced their sentences to 35 years' imprisonment each.