Taxi man recalls Pelham murder

2009-10-08 00:00

ONE of five men on trial in the high court in Pietermaritzburg for the murder of 19-year-old Johnny Canos during a robbery at Pelham Liquors on June 22, 2006,Bheki Nzama (31), testified yesterday that he had ferried the attackers in his taxi, but claimed he did not know of the robbery plan until they got to the bottle store.

When the seven assailants returned to his taxi shortly after entering the bottle store, Nzama told the court, one of them — Sifiso Thusi (25), who is on trial — “reported that a white person had died in the bottle store”.

The other three accused on trial are Vusimuzi Ngcobo (27), Ntokozo Zondi (19) and Zenzele Mkhize (22).

All five have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

Nzama, who is from Cato Manor in Durban, said all of the accused in the dock were participants in the robbery, but he did not know which of them had carried firearms.

“They were armed. I was aware of some firearms that were in a bag … I can’t say who had firearms when they alighted from the taxi,” Nzama said.

The state says in its indictment that Vusimuzi Ngcobo was the person who fired the fatal shot at Canos, who was working in his parents’ bottle store at the time of the robbery. He was shot in the head and died at the scene.

Nzama told the court he was hired by someone called “Coach” to transport him and others from Durban to Pietermaritzburg on the day in question.

He was told that Coach (so called because he coached female soccer players), had to fetch some money from Pietermaritzburg as there had been a death in his family.

Nzama testified that Coach and another man, Thami, had given him directions about where to go.

He said that en route he and his conductor, Mncedisi Dladla (who is a state witness in the case), had observed that some of the passengers had firearms.

“There was nothing that I could do. I kept quiet and I kept on driving … I did show some fright,” he said.

He said Dladla was also “visibly frightened”, but he too said nothing.

He said he had been directed to the vicinity of Southgate Spar where some of the men alighted. On their return he understood it to be said that “that thing did not succeed”, but he didn’t know what was being referred to.

Then they proceeded to Market Square where other people joined the group.

From there they proceeded to Pelham Liquor Store, but en route four of the group including Coach, Thami and his conductor had alighted, leaving behind seven passengers.

Nzama said he was instructed to go to the liquor store and directed where to park. He was also told not to switch off the engine.

Nzama said when they arrived at the bottle store he became aware of the plan to rob the store.

All seven passengers alighted, but he said he did not flee because he feared for the life of his conductor and because Coach was aware of where he (Nzama) lived.

Nzama testified that the gang “came back running”.

After the robbery all of them met in a tavern — including the four who had not taken part in the robbery — and Thami shared out the spoils. He gave each of them R160 cash and Nzama got an additional R200 for petrol.

The case is proceeding.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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