Court to ‘hear’ from deceased

2016-03-31 11:01
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Pietermaritzburg - Statements made by two alleged accomplices to a series of ATM bombings and other crimes who died before they could testify are going to be admitted as evidence in the high court trial of 10 alleged members of the syndicate.

The self-confessed accomplices are Zazi Reginald Duma, who was killed in 2012 just weeks after police arrested the suspects in the case, and Wiseman Mahlobo, who died in December 2015.

Judge Yvonne Mbatha ruled in favour of the prosecution yesterday that their statements can be admitted in the case in which 10 men are facing a total of 31 charges of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, causing explosions, malicious injury to property, attempted murder, theft and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.

The judge agreed with state advocate Dorian Paver that the statements should be admitted into evidence “in the interests of justice”.

The documents are not yet before the court as the prosecution first has to lead evidence by the police officers who took the statements from the men.

Judge Mbatha yesterday rejected vigorous objections by defence advocates and attorneys representing the 10 men on trial.

They argued that the statements by the former co-accused-turned-accomplice-witnesses, would result in a “travesty of justice” and an unfair trial.

The judge said, however, that the court had a wide discretion to admit evidence in the interests of justice as long as it was reliable and necessary.

The judge also said the offer by the state to “blot out” all names that are mentioned in the statements, including the 10 accused men, will eliminate any potential prejudice to them.

Judge Mbatha added that her ruling does not mean the court will “simply accept the statements”, but said she will consider their evidential value having regard to all the other evidence in the case.

Defence advocate Di Franklin — with whose submissions all the other defence lawyers agreed — said the fact that the authors of the statements were dead and could not be cross-examined would result in “extreme prejudice” to the accused before court.

The group on trial are alleged to have been part of a syndicate responsible for setting off bombs at a number of ATMs in KwaZulu-Natal between September 28, 2012, and January 13, 2013, and of stealing cash sums ranging from R115 000 to R855 000. The bombings took place at Nottingham Road, Howick, Merrivale, Greytown and Utrecht.

While carrying out the bombings the group is also charged for the murder of local police constable Vidhur Jadoo (37) in a shoot-out in Howick on November 7, 2012, as well as the murders of two civilians — a woman, Bongo­kuhle Nkosi, and a man, Sizwe Gule, at Utrecht on December 5 last year.

The court heard that Jadoo and his colleague Livingstone Mpangase were both shot when they encountered the bakkie transporting ATM bomb suspects in the Howick area.

Jadoo died of a gunshot wound to his brain and Mpangase was critically injured.

The two civilian victims were killed when the bombers struck a Caltex garage in Utrecht, holding up employees at gunpoint and robbing them of cash and cigarettes. They also bombed the ATM at the garage and took R115 050 in cash. Nkosi and Gule were shot dead after stopping their vehicle on the road nearby.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  court

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