Three convicted of councillor's murder
Johannesburg - Three men were convicted of kidnapping, murdering and robbing missing Ekurhuleni councillor Godfrey Mbethe by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Monday.
Judge Peter Mabuse said there was sufficient evidence to presume Mbethe was dead, and that the three had been part of a syndicate who killed him.
Vusimuzi Landford Twala, 36, Simphiwe Dennis Zwane, 50, and Christopher Mbatha, 37, had each played a role in killing and robbing Mbethe, 43, in 2009, he found.
They stole R7 000, as well as Mbethe's bank card and cellphone. They were part of a group who withdrew more money from Mbethe's bank account at a mall in Vosloorus. More than R14 000 from the account was spent on clothes at the Eastgate mall in Johannesburg.
The accused were all linked to the bank and the two malls through security video footage. They denied any involvement in Mbethe's disappearance, and that he was dead.
Mbethe went missing after withdrawing R7 000 from his account at a bank in Benoni on the morning of July 22 2009.
Mabuse said there was no evidence, as had been claimed, that the councillor had been in conflict with his family, that he had a habit of disappearing and turning up again, had mental problems, nor that he had a relationship with another woman.
It was therefore unlikely that Mbethe could have had reason to disappear. The fact that no other transactions had been made on his account supported this.
He referred to the case of missing policewoman Constable Francis Rasuge, whose boyfriend William Nkuna was convicted of her murder long before her remains were found, four years after her death.
Mabuse said it would be unrealistic to require a body in all cases, as it would lead to absurdities. The judge rejected Twala's evidence that he had received Mbethe's cellphone as security for a loan, and Mbatha's claim that someone else had given the councillor's bank card to him, with a request to withdraw money.
Mbatha had been in the bank, where Mbethe was last seen, scouting for anyone who withdrew large amounts of money, and to alert other members of the syndicate.
Mabuse said it was highly improbable that the councillor had known any of the accused and that he would never willingly have handed his cellphone, bank card and PIN number to them.
People in the public gallery broke into song after the judgment, until a court orderly warned them to be quiet. The case continues on Tuesday.