/ 23 January 2024

Magaqa murder accused not mentally fit for trial, says defence

Sindiso Magaqa
Sindiso Magaqa was a proportional representation councillor at Umzimkhulu Local Municipality when he was ambushed and shot. File photo by Gallo

The Pietermaritzburg high court has referred one of the four men charged with the murder of former African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) secretary general Sindiso Magaqa for mental evaluation.

This comes after the four men — Sibonelo Myeza, Mbulelo Mpofana, Mlungisi Ncalane and Sibusiso Ncengwa — charged with the 2017 murder of Magaqa, appeared in the Pietermaritzburg high court on Monday.

In addition to murder, the suspects are charged with attempted murder, malicious injury to property and the unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

Magaqa was attacked after a branch meeting in in Umzimkhulu in 2017. Two other councillors were also wounded in the ambush. Magaqa died a few months later in hospital.

Defence advocate Shane Matthews said in court that accused number three, Ncalane, is not mentally fit to stand trial and might not be able to fully understand the proceedings. “When I attempted to speak with him before the trial this morning it was as if the accused was staring right through me. He does not seem to understand what is going on,” said Matthews.

Ncalane’s father, Khuluphala Ncalane (69), took to the stand to support the claim about his son’s mental health.

“My son has shown aggression towards me,” said Ncalane, adding that his son was unable to perform certain duties at home, such as cooking.

He also said: “There were two gas cylinders at home and some paint, my son threw the gas cylinders away and took the paint to paint a tree.”

State advocate Lawrence Gcaba asked the father why the issue of mental health was only being raised at the Pietermaritzburg High Court as opposed to the Kwamaphumulo Magistrates’ Court, where he previously appeared.

Ncalane said that at the time, his daughter was the one handling the case on behalf of the family.

“There was a document produced from the hospital stating that my son is stable to continue; however I disagree,” said Ncalane. “I disagree because I have walked with him my whole life. How can they say he is stable?”

Matthews asked the court to send the accused for mental evaluation, and Judge Nompumelelo Radebe agreed, ruling that Ncalane should be taken for assessment since it had been a long time since his last review was done.

This article first appeared in The Witness.