Judge dismisses torture claims

2014-03-04 22:09


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Nelspruit - A high court judge has dismissed testimony from a woman implicated in the murder of a 6-year-old child that she and her two co-accused were forced to confess to the crime.

On Tuesday afternoon, Justice Collin Lamont of the Nelspruit circuit of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria told Stella Sibongile Zulu, 49, from Masibekela outside Komatipoort, that her testimony in a trial within a trial could not be accepted.

Zulu and her co-accused, Sifiso Vilakazi, 25, and Thabile Mnisi, 33, have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

The three are accused of killing Dimakatso Shabangu, who went missing on 21 April 2009. Her body was found floating in a river four days later.

Zulu testified that she and her co-accused were assaulted and tortured into confessing to the murder.

"A person who was not there [at the murder scene] could not tell how it happened the way you [did]. It is surprising that you said [former Warrant Officer Bongani] Mangane told you not to say anything," said Lamont.

"You told the magistrate that you were not assaulted by police and you told the magistrate that you were assaulted by the community while you insist Mangane told you not say anything about assault."

Lamont was responding to Zulu's earlier testimony that she helped search for Shabangu as she was a member of the Community Policing Forum.

She had said that she was arrested shortly after the child was found but was forced by Mangane to point out the crime scene and say how the child was killed, adding that she was also forced to lie to a magistrate.

However, Lamont dismissed her testimony.

"You told the court that you lied because you were assaulted and scared of torturing. You said you want to make a statement because you regret what you did. You pointed out the crime scene without being forced," said Lamont.

Lamont also told the other accused, Vilakazi, that his statement had different versions while the evidence he gave the court was unsatisfactory.

"The evidence that you have given is not satisfying. You mentioned different versions about the child's disappearance. You said you knew Thabile before the court and you gave a different version," he said.

"You were changing statements. You went with the police and the community.

"In her evidence, Stella Zulu does not show that you went with her. Your evidence is unacceptable; the evidence is not corresponding... In my view, the police did their job in a proper way."

Lamont said he welcomed all the evidence given that confessions were made without force.

The trial within a trial was concluded and Lamont postponed the case to Wednesday.

Vilakazi and Mnisi are out on R3 000 bail while Zulu is out on R5 000 bail.

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