As all the murder accused asserted their innocence in the killing of former Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana captain, Senzo Meyiwa, it emerged in court that the third accused, Mthobisi Prince Ncube, is allegedly in danger of being killed himself.
On Friday, at the Pretoria high court, advocate Dan Teffo, who represents the first four accused, including Ncube, alleged that his client was being “tortured” by prison authorities. The lawyer addied that Ncube could be dead before the trial ended.
Teffo was speaking on the first day the trial into the October 2014 killing of Meyiwa began, where the five accused pleaded not guilty to charges of premeditated murder, attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances ( armed robbery), the possession of firearms without a licence and the illegal possession of ammunition.
Ncube stands accused alongside Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Ntanzi, Mthokoziseni Maphisa and Fisokuhle Ntuli of gunning down Meyiwa at the Vosloorus, Gauteng, home of his lover, singer Kelly Khumalo.
Teffo told the court that, after the last sitting on 12 April, when Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela postponed the matter for advocate Zandile Mshololo, who represents Ntuli, to consult expected witnesses, he found his client Ncube missing from the court cells after having allegedly being assaulted by one of the correctional officials guarding the accused.
“When this trial ends, accused number three (Ncube) will be six feet under. He’s getting tortured every day,” a visibly irate Teffo said.
He added that the officer who allegedly assaulted Ncube did not have a name tag on and had prevented the defence legal team from consulting with their clients, and called the officer’s demeanour that of a “bully”.
Teffo said he had previously raised concerns about Ncube being moved from the Johannesburg Prison, commonly known as Sun City, to Kgosi Mampuru prison in Tshwane, saying his being placed in a maximum security prison was a safety problem.
But prosecutor George Baloyi said there was no reason for Ncube to be moved back to Sun City and it would not be feasible logistically, but he would have the alleged assault of the accused investigated.
“I don’t mean to trivialise the matter, but if the incident happened here at court, I don’t see why the accused has to be moved from Kgosi Mampuru,” Baloyi said, adding that he will address the correctional officers to allow Teffo to consult at court.
Judge Maumela said he could not interfere with prison authorities, but directed Baloyi to ensure all communications with the correctional officials would be in writing, and that the prosecutor should indicate that all responses should also be recorded in writing.
Maumela said he didn’t want to be denialist about inmates being abused by state officials, including police and prison authorities.
“The abuse and ill-treatment of inmates for whatever reasons is frowned upon by courts,” Maumela emphasised.
The five accused stood up to plead not guilty to the charges, with all accused, speaking in isiZulu, recording their innocence by saying they did not even know where these charges emanated from.
The trial was set to resume on Friday afternoon after the lunch break.