Defence lawyers representing Richard Mdluli put heavy pressure on inquest witnesses at the Boksburg Magistrate's Court this week.
They struggled to remember the details of a murder that took place 13 years ago and the attorneys used their often faulty recollection to label the witnesses unreliable and suggested they were conspiring with police to mislead the court.
The inquest, which was postponed earlier this year, is trying to determine the circumstances surrounding the death of Oupa Ramogibe.
It is alleged that Mdluli orchestrated Ramogibe's murder after finding out that he was romantically involved with Tshidi Buthelezi, the mother of his child. Ramogibe was killed in an alleged robbery in February 1999 while pointing out the scene of an earlier attempt on his life.
Mdluli is interdicted from working as a policeman, pending a high court review of decisions to withdraw charges and reinstate him.
Magistrate Jurg Viviers provisionally withdrew criminal charges against Mdluli and his alleged accomplices, Colonel Nkosana Ximba, court orderly Samuel Dlomo and Lieutenant Colonel Mtunzi-Omhle Mtunzi, pending the finalisation of the inquest.
Ramogibe's mother Sophia and his sister Justina testified this week and at times their evidence contradicted their official statements to the police. Ike Motloung and Paul Leisher, the respective legal representatives for Mdluli and Ximba, accused the Ramogibes of lying and falsely accusing Mdluli of murder despite having no evidence. Both admitted that they did not know for sure who killed Ramogibe but that their suspicions led them to believe Mdluli was involved.
Sophia scoffed at the notion that Ramogibe's other girlfriend at the time, Lerato Sebalo, could have been responsible for her son's death.
Sophia revealed that Sebalo was unhappy with Ramogibe's relationship with Buthelezi and had begged his mother to intervene.
The unemployed Sebalo took the stand on Thursday and asked that the police pay maintenance towards the upkeep of her daughter with Ramogibe, because she believed they were responsible for his death.
Motloung accused her of caring more about getting maintenance than finding Ramogibe's killers, but she denied this. Sebalo conceded that she did not remember everything that transpired at the time clearly. She told the court that she and Ramogibe lived together with their four-year old daughter when Mdluli came to their house in 1997.
Buthelezi's brother, Sibusiso, accompanied Mdluli. They demanded R12 000 from Ramogibe – who was not there at the time if he did not stop seeing Buthelezi romantically. The money was compensation for the money Mdluli had spent educating Buthelezi, as well as money he had paid for lobola.
"He said [Ramogibe's] body parts would be scattered all over Vosloorus if he didn't break up with Tshidi," said Sebalo in the statement she made, which was read in court.
Mdluli returned the next day and told Sebalo that he would kill Ramogibe if he continued seeing Buthelezi. Sebalo said she begged him to not to, saying they should speak to the Ramogibes first. Mdluli agreed. He and Buthelezi's father went with Sebalo to the Ramogibes and they promised to intervene.
After a lengthy discussion, Ramogibe promised to break things off with Buthelezi, but this did not happen and they married in secret about a year later. Mdluli found out about the marriage and threatened to kill Ramogibe numerous times, said Sebalo. Mdluli demanded that Ramogibe divorce Buthelezi by October 1998 or he would be killed, but the divorce did not materialise despite the fact that Ramogibe was still living with Sebalo.
That December, an attempt was made on Ramogibe's life and two months later he was dead, shot five times. The inquiry continues.
* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email [email protected]
The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.