/ 13 May 2015

Court hears details of xenophobic attack on Sithole

Photojournalist James Oatway captured the attack on Emmanuel Sithole
Photojournalist James Oatway captured the attack on Emmanuel Sithole

The Alexandra Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday heard how Mozambican hawker Emmanuel Sithole was attacked and how his alleged killers were arrested.

Sizwe Mngomezulu and Sifundo Mzimela, both aged 21, were applying for bail before magistrate Syta Prinsloo.

Mngomezulu, Mzimela, Mthinto Bhengu and a fourth accused, whom it emerged on Wednesday was still a minor, were initially accused of killing Sithole in Alexandra last month.

Investigating officer Constable Bheki Mhlongo told the court all four were arrested after police officers reconstructed the crime scene using photographs published in the Sunday Times newspaper.

Sweets and cigarettes
Mhlongo said Sithole was attacked on Second Avenue, where he was selling sweets and cigarettes. The four accused approached him, said Mhlongo.

“Accused three [the minor] took a couple of cigarettes from the deceased, the accused then told him to not take his cigarettes and he was attacked.”

The four assaulted Sithole and chased him down Second Avenue. Mzimela, who had a spanner in his hand, allegedly hit Sithole from behind and he fell to the ground. One of the four carried a broken beer bottle.

“As the assault continued, the deceased tried to walk for at least 200m, but he fell to the ground again. Upon realising that a journalist was taking photos, the attackers walked away,” said Mhlongo.

He said the journalists picked Sithole up and took him to hospital.

First arrests
Mzimela and the minor allegedly told their friends what they had done, the police officer told the court.

The minor and Mngomezulu were the first to be arrested, at their friend’s shack on Third Avenue. Mngomezulu denied that his name was Sizwe.

“He refused to leave with the police, his friend told us he is Sizwe. [The minor] was also inside the shack.”

Police discovered blood-stained weapons – an Okapi knife, a spanner and a kitchen knife allegedly used in the attack under a bed inside the shack. They also found a pair of jeans with blood stains. The jeans belonged to Bhengu, Mhlongo told the court.

Police proceeded to Bhengu’s place of residence at Madala hostel and found his mother, who denied knowing Bhengu. “We left the place and returned with the suspect’s friend, who pointed out the place of residence, but still the mother denied knowing the suspect. Moments later, the suspect arrived at the home and was arrested.”

Mhlongo said his fellow detectives called him and informed him that they had arrested Mzimela.

‘Danger to society’
All four posed a danger to society, he said. “I hear in their bail application the two accused state that they were not violent, and that the state’s case against them is weak. That is not true, they pose a danger to society,” he said.

Although Mngomezulu and Mzimela’s places of residence had been verified, they posed a danger to the witnesses in the case. “I do not trust that they will always be found at their residences as they sometimes stay with friends, and one of the friends is a witness in this trial,” said Mhlongo.

Bhengu, Mngomezulu, Mzimela and the minor are accused of killing Sithole in the Johannesburg North township last month. A trial date for Bhengu is still to be determined, prosecutor Joe Tloubatla told the court.

Earlier on Wednesday, the state withdrew its case against the minor as it emerged in court that he was 17 years old and therefore could not be named. His name and photograph had earlier been widely published before his age was known.

The bail hearing continues. – ANA