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Key Glebelands trial witness put under pressure

Publish date: 11 September 2019
Issue Number: 4780
Diary: Legalbrief Today
Category: general

The defence for a former police officer charged with leading an extortion racket at Glebelands Hostel that included murder and attempted murder, has laid into the state’s key witness over two days of cross-examination, telling the KZN High Court (Pietermaritzburg) that the witness himself once faced an attempted murder charge involving a hostel resident. The witness, whom the court ruled may not be identified, was hammered with questions and often said he was unable to remember certain events and was unable to stand by some previous statements, making it appear that he was at one time an active participant in the criminal gang that ruled the Umlazi-based hostel through fear and extortion. In addition, notes a Daily Maverick report, Advocate Martin Krog suggested, it would have been in the witness’ best interests to have another Glebelands resident – Sipho Ndovela – killed, as he was allegedly a witness to the attempted murder charge the state’s key witness once faced. Ndovela – chairman of the hostel’s Block 56 – was shot in the head when exiting the Umlazi Magistrate’s Court in 2015. Krog’s client, former Durban Central plainclothes detective Bhekukwazi Mdweshu, has been charged with Ndovela’s murder, along with Vukani Mcobothi and Eugene Wonderboy Hlophe. Mxoleleni Bhani was convicted of being a triggerman in Ndovela’s murder and sentenced in September 2017.

The witness implicated Mdweshu in Ndovela’s murder when the prosecution led evidence last week. The witness went one step further yesterday and told the court that Bhani – a known hitman – was not Ndovela’s killer, notes the DM report. He also said Ndovela was in fact not a witness in the attempted murder charge faced by himself, and that the matter had been withdrawn. The 48-year-old witness has been in state protection since 2017 and started his in-camera testimony last week Tuesday. ‘If I suggest to you, that in the context of the evidence you have given, you are an accomplice, and not a complainant, what would you say?’ asked Krog. ‘I don’t know,’ replied the man. ‘Do you know what an accomplice is?’ continued the advocate. ‘No.’ ‘It is someone who plots and plans with others…’ said Krog. ‘I understand,’ said the witness, seemingly unflustered. ‘Are you an accomplice?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Think about it,’ Krog pushed. ‘I don’t know,’ the witness insisted.

Full Daily Maverick report

Earlier, the witness said he had been afraid to report the crimes at Glebelands because he had lost faith in the police. The witness said he had to flee the hostel in Umlazi after the Police Intelligence Unit told him about an attack aimed at him, notes a GroundUp report. Last week he had told the court he was the only person who knew the secrets of Mdweshu and the other seven accused about the crimes at Glebelands. He said some of the money being collected from Glebelands residents was to pay police. Mdweshu and the other seven accused, Khayelihle Mbuthuma, Vukani Mcombothi, Eugene Hlophe, Mbuyiselwa Mkhize, Ncomekile Ntshangase, Mondli Mthethwa and Bongani Mbhele, are facing 22 charges. The charges include nine murder and seven attempted murder charges. All eight men have pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The witness said after fleeing Glebelands he opened a murder case against Mdweshu for the killing of Fikile Siyephu. He had told the court that Mdweshu had come to him to say Siyephu must be killed. Siyephu was shot at Glebelands hostel by Mcombothi and Sthembiso Mbanjwa, according to the witness. He said Mdweshu had conspired in Siyephu's murder. 'I received a call from the Intelligence Unit. They told me not to jump off at Mega City because there were people who were planning to kill me.' He said it was clear that the person who wanted to kill him was Mdweshu.

The witness also told the court that an R5 and AK47 gun was used in an attempted murder in 19 August 2014. 'Accused one (Mdweshu) was the one who bought the guns,' said the witness. According to the GroundUp report, he said some of the firearms that were bought were an R5, 38mm, AK47 and a pump gun. 'The accused told me that the R5 gun cost him R9,000. Mdweshu demanded to be paid back that money from the money we had collected from the residents. I was with other two men. We counted that money and paid him back R9 000. He told us that he met with a certain police officer to collect that gun in an airport,' said the witness.

Full GroundUp report