‘Mandla, here is your wife’

2009-10-13 00:00

MOMENTS before he drew a firearm inside the Duzimed Pharmacy in Pietermaritzburg on March 23, 2007, murder accused Elphas Dladla (32) said in a loud voice; “Mandla, here is your wife. Kiss her.”

Then he slapped a woman holding a baby “around her face”, and she fled with the child.

Dladla drew his gun, cocked it and the first gunshot went off. Local traffic officer Denis Mandla Khanyile, who had been queuing for medicines with a colleague, fell.

About five shots were fired.

This evidence was given by an eyewitness, Nhlakanipho Mathabela, in the high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday before Judge Leona Theron and assessors at Dladla’s trial.

Mathabela, a schoolteacher, said he was in the queue directly behind Khanyile when the shooting took place.

He told the court that when he saw Dladla draw a gun he realised there “was trouble coming” and stepped back. He saw Dladla take the gun from a holster at his waist. The holster fell to the floor.

He said he thought Khanyile was struck in the head by the first bullet, because he put one hand to his head as he fell down. He saw bullets fly past him, striking the tills and medicine shelves as more shots were fired.

Under cross-examination by Dladla’s advocate, Fanie Slabbert, Mathabela said he could not say whether any conversation took place between the woman and Khan­yile before the shooting, as he was not taking notice of them.

However, he disputed that there was an argument between Dladla and Khanyile before the first gunshot. “As far as I am concerned he [Khan­yile] did not say a word,” he said.

In a statement handed to court by the defence, Dladla pleaded not guilty on the basis that he “subjectively believed” he was acting in self- defence.

He explains that he drew his firearm “in a belief that his life was in danger” and to avoid an “unlawful attack on his person and his life”.

Dladla admits he shot and killed Khanyile, whom he knew had an extra-marital affair with his wife from 2006, but denies any wrongdoing or unlawfulness, said Slabbert.

Dladla said he saw Khanyile reach behind his waist where he expected a firearm to be.

“He was of the belief that the deceased was reaching for his firearm and that the deceased’s intention was to shoot and kill the accused or his wife, or both of them,” according to the statement.

Slabbert said Dladla alleges that he and his wife and two children went to Duzimed that evening to buy baby formula.

Dladla also bought tablets for stress as he was suffering from an ulcer.

He returned and sat in his car, and then sent his son back to the pharmacy to buy water so he could take the tablets.

Dladla noticed a Venture with two traffic officers enter the parking lot. He saw Khanyile, whom he knew had an extra-marital affair with his wife. He asked his wife if “that is Mandla” and she said it was him.

Their arrival at Duzimed at the same time was “pure coincidence”.

Dladla maintains he asked his wife to go into the pharmacy to tell Mandla that she was ending their relationship and that he followed her into the pharmacy to witness her ending the relationship.

An argument started, during which Khanyile denied having an affair with his wife, according to Dladla, even though she confirmed that she did have an affair with him.

Dladla said he started to “raise his voice” during the conversation and that Khanyile became angry.

He maintains that at that stage he saw Khanyile reach for what he believed was a firearm.

The case continues today.

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