‘Cellphone theft led to murder’

2011-01-05 00:00

THE state is opposing bail for three men charged with the kidnapping and murder of a man who was alleged to have stolen a cellphone from one of them while he lay semi-conscious after an accident in September last year.

Taxi owner Xolani Khanyile (37), his brother, Khumbalani Khanyile (29), and Vincent Zondi (33) are charged with kidnapping the victim, Sibusiso Khubeka, in West Street on September 11

They allegedly bundled him into the boot of a car, drove to a plantation in the Prestbury area and stabbed him repeatedly.

Investigating officer Warrant Officer Philip Lemmer told magistrate Divesh Mootheram it is alleged that Xolani was involved in a motor vehicle accident in the city centre on September 4 and that while he was semi-conscious his cellphone was stolen by Khubeka.

Witnesses subsequently reported they were “threatened and intimidated” by the accused and others with firearms in their bid to establish the identity and whereabouts of Khubeka.

Members of the community were allegedly told to call Xolani if Khubeka was seen, which is what is thought to have happened, the court was told.

Lemmer said it is alleged the three accused confronted Khubeka on the day in question, bundled him into the boot of Xolani’s vehicle and drove to the murder scene.

According to a statement allegedly made by Xolani, when they opened the boot to let Khubeka out the stolen cellphone had fallen out of his pocket.

“Accused Three [Zondi] then allegedly got angry and stabbed the deceased numerous times. They then threw the deceased out of the boot of the car and drove away,” said Lemmer.

Lemmer said the three concealed the murder, but after their arrest on September 22 and 23 they co-operated with police and admitted their involvement in the crimes.

They also all made statements to a magistrate and indicated they wanted to “tell the truth” and plead guilty.

As a result, the senior public prosecutor has been approached to discuss a possible plea agreement.

However, when they appeared in court the accused were legally represented and their attorneys urged the state to agree to bail.

Lemmer said his opposition to bail is based on various reasons, including fear for the safety of state witnesses, the strength of the state’s case and the likelihood that the accused will not stand trial.

DNA results are still being awaited in respect of forensic tests on clothing, the alleged murder weapon and blood found in Xolani Khanyile’s vehicle.

Lemmer said he believed the blood will match that of Khubeka as all the accused had admitted it was his blood.

He disputed under cross-examination that Zondi’s confession was not voluntary and that the accused were denied access to lawyers after their arrest.

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