Hijack accused claims he was ‘white businessman’s’ go-between

2008-04-02 00:00

Truck hijacking accused Jackson Khumalo (38) told the Pietermaritzburg High Court yesterday he was employed by a white businessman in Johannesburg in 2003/04 to act as a “go between”, buying goods from truck drivers and arranging delivery to a warehouse, but said he did not question the source of the goods.

Khumalo was giving evidence yesterday in his defence before Judge Kevin Swain and an assessor, in a case where he pleaded not guilty to seven charges, including the murder of a truck driver, Johannes de Witt of Bloemfontein, during a hijacking on October 27, 2003; two counts of robbery with aggravating circumstances; two of conspiracy to commit robbery with aggravating circumstances and two of kidnapping.

Three charges relate to the hijacking of a truck transporting Ola ice cream driven by De Witt. He was en route from Queensburgh, Durban, to Johannesburg when he was hijacked in the Currys Post area, and shot next to the eye as he apparently tried to drive off to escape the robbers.

The truck veered out of control and overturned.

The other four charges arise from the hijacking of a horse and trailer carrying a load of liquor and driven by Siphiwe Jacob Zuma and Richard Ntombela on the N3 near Balgowan on September 20, 2004.

Zuma and Ntombela were allegedly kidnapped by the assailants, tied up and taken to Gauteng, where they were left in the veld.

A woman, Ncane Zuma, who was wanted as an accomplice, testified for the prosecution during the proceedings and said she was one of two women tasked with luring De Witt into a trap so the vehicle could be hijacked on the N3. They waited for a lift and arranged to be dropped off at a designated point, where the hijackers boarded the truck.

She later married a co-accomplice to the hijacking, Bheki Mwelase. She and Mwelase were among state witnesses who told the court that Khumalo was the driving force behind the planned hijacking.

In his evidence, Khumalo said he was stabbed in July 2003 and continued to be “troubled” by his injuries during October and was “mainly at home” receiving medical treatment and recovering.

Asked if he could recall specifically where he was on October 27, the day of the hijacking, he repeatedly said it was too long ago. “I’m not a computer,” he responded to a similar question at one stage.

State advocate Dalene Barnard put it to him that a doctor testified that Khumalo’s injuries sustained on July 5, 2003 were not serious and that he would have recovered within two weeks.

Khumalo said he continues to treat himself with traditional medicines and whenever he lifts heavy objects, his wounds “revive”. He said state witnesses who implicated him in the hijackings were lying.

During cross-examination, he said he was employed by a Johannesburg businessman, Paul Pantosia, around August 2003 and 2004 to “liaise” with truck drivers who sought to sell part or all of their loads. He did not question why “Paul” did not want people to know what he was doing. “I was just interested in the job. I never bothered about other issues,” he said.

The case is proceeding.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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