Reliability of State witness questioned

2013-08-14 07:00

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Durban - The reliability of the State's star witness testifying against three men accused of gunning down an ANC leader in Durban's southern hostels, was questioned on Tuesday.

"It seems to me witness X is the one who should be investigated," defence lawyer Lourens de Klerk told the Durban Magistrate's Court during the men's bail application.

He said the witness, Sinako Mkhize, was in all probability trying to shift the blame for his involvement in the shooting.

De Klerk is acting for all three accused - Bongukwanda Excellent Gasa, Sipho Innocent Sikhakhane and Skhulu Phiwayinkosi Gasa.

He argued that his clients, IFP members, were unlikely to go to the ANC -controlled SJ Smith hostel to buy a gun that would be used later to shoot that hostel's branch leader.

The three have been accused of gunning down Sithembiso Ngidi, an executive member of the ANC branch in Durban's Ward 75 in Jacobs area branch.

He was killed on 23 June after taking part in a door-to-door election campaign in Lamontville, south of Durban.

De Klerk told a packed court "it is unlikely that my guys would go to an area where they are not liked and buy a gun".

The court heard that the three men hailed from the IFP-controlled Jacobs Hostel and Ngidi from the SJ Smith Hostel.

De Klerk conceded the onus was on the accused to prove exceptional circumstances existed for them to be granted bail.

He argued that the State had not put any evidence before the court proving it had a strong case, as it had claimed.

That case he said appeared to be based on the evidence of a "magical witness" and Ngidi's girlfriend. She said in her statement that "she could see in his eyes that he knew his assailants".

He said such testimony would not withstand the scrutiny of a trial court.

It was notable that the "magical witness" was currently in jail and had claimed that police had assaulted him.

State witness

De Klerk said if the State had a strong case against the accused, it would not have needed to approach one of his clients to become a State witness.

He pointed out that there were a number discrepancies in the statement that the investigating officer had submitted to the court.

One of these was that the number of people involved in the shooting varied between five and three.

The State's argument that the accused would intimidate witnesses was not possible. They could not enter the SJ Smith Hostel as they were IFP members.

De Klerk said the State had not been able to present any evidence that any form of intimidation, even in the form of threatening cellphone messages, had been presented to the court.

Prosecutor Blackie Swart argued that the State had a strong case and that the strength of the evidence had to be determined by a trial court and not at a bail application.

The State had a number of witnesses to events leading up to the shooting, as well as to events afterwards.

He said Ngidi had previously lived at Jacobs Hostel, but had been forced to flee because of his political beliefs.

The court was packed with ANC and IFP supporters amid a heavy police presence. The iron gates to the public gallery of Court 10 were kept shut during proceedings.

Several police officers outside the court room kept an eye on both parties' supporters who had been unable to secure space in Court 10's public gallery.

Magistrate Vanitha Armu was expected to rule on the bail application later on Tuesday.

Read more on:    anc  |  ifp  |  politics

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