Angry crowd bays for justice

2011-08-05 00:00

TURNING around to acknowledge the families of his victims for the first time, accused axe killer Joseph Ntshongwana made a brief appearance at the Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

Looking more composed and stable than before, the six-feettall former Blue Bulls flanker wore a track suit jacket and track pants and was unrestrained as he addressed magistrate Anita Govender.

Speaking slowly, Govender asked, “Do you understand?”, to which he nodded.

Prosecutor Shayna Naidoo requested a postponement to August 25 to allow for the last part of Ntshongwana’s mental evaluation to be submitted.

Ntshongwana is accused of using an axe to murder Thembelenkosini Cebekhulu of Montclair, an unknown man in Umbilo and Paulos Hlongwa in Lamontville.

He is also facing an attempted murder charge for assaulting Khayelani Mdluli with an axe in Lamontville, and a fifth charge of assault.

The accused has been under police guard at Fort Napier psychiatric hospital since last month while undergoing a series of tests to ascertain his condition. He was diagnosed two years ago with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

After the hearing the families and friends of the deceased and injured went outside to join protestors with placards to see the accused as he was driven away in an SUV with tinted windows.

The angry mob kicked and punched the vehicle as it sped off before investigating officer Colonel Jason Macgray attempted to restore calm.

“From a police perspective we feel that he is fit to stand trial, but we just have to be patient and wait for the medical evidence to be finalised,” he told the angry crowd.

Macgray gave his word that the accused will face justice, and discouraged the demonstrators from threatening vigilantism. “Justice will be served, and I understand that you are angry — but if you break the law I will have to lock you up too,” he warned them.

NTSHONGWANA’S father, a former Springbok himself and a respected businessman from the Eastern Cape, spoke of the family’s anguish.

Said Liston Ntshongwana outside Court 12, “This condition of ‘mental illness’ does not sit well with the First World, let alone the African community. They just want to lynch my son. He is sick.”

Like his son, six feet tall and broad-shouldered, Ntshongwana chose his words carefully.

“I offered my condolences to the bereaved families on the first appearance. I am deeply sorry for what has happened, but now I have to stand by my son.

“As a family we are obviously taking huge strain, but with time we are learning to deal with it.”

Standing next to his tearful daughter, Luleka, Ntshongwana senior said that every day has been a new challenge for his family, but he hopes his son will get the necessary treatment for his condition.

“You can see the difference from the first day he appeared. Today he is medicated and in good health. Without his medication he is a different person.”

In his first appearance the accused appeared bewildered and frightened as he clutched a Bible.

He had to be restrained by a team of task force policemen, dwarfing them as he pushed his way back into the cells, cowering and sobbing as he retreated.

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