Lawyers deny Zulu was driving

2012-03-02 00:00

LAWYERS for businessman Prince Sifiso Zulu yesterday tried to persuade appeal judges that a magistrate was wrong to find that Zulu had been driving his BMW X5 when it ran a red robot and killed two people in Durban in March 2008.

But state advocate Johan du Toit submitted the evidence was “like a jigsaw puzzle” and when all the dots were joined one was left with an inescapable inference that Zulu was the driver that night.

The circumstantial evidence pointing to his guilt included observations by eyewitnesses, such as police Captain Shaine Spilsbury and a paramedic at the scene, cellphone evidence and the fact that Zulu first identified the driver to police as “Dumisani Ngcobo” and later as “Bongumusa Gumede”.

Zulu did not give evidence in his defence, nor was Gumede called as a witness to confirm Zulu’s allegation that he’d been driving.

He sat in the public gallery listening intently yesterday to the arguments before judges Pete Koen and Acting Judge Themba Mjoli, who reserved judgment.

Zulu’s advocate, Thabani Masuku, submitted that the court should set aside his client’s conviction and sentence on five of the seven counts. Zulu pleaded guilty to two charges.

He was sentenced to a total of five years’ imprisonment (two of which were suspended conditionally) plus fines totalling R7 500 arising from the accident, in which two members of the Soul’s Harbour Ministries church were killed and 12 people injured on March 29, 2008.

Evidence was that the then KZN transport MEC, Bheki Cele, a friend of Sifiso Zulu, intervened at the accident scene and later took Zulu to the police station.

Zulu denied from the outset that he had been driving his BMW X5 when it collided with the victims’ bakkie at high speed at around 9 pm and claimed he was at home asleep when he heard about the crash.

Captain Spilsbury testified that he saw two people run from the accident scene, one of whom wore khaki clothes similar to those Zulu was wearing when he saw him at the police station later. The other wore a white shirt and had dreadlocks.

A paramedic saw a man with dreadlocks and a white shirt using a phone at the accident scene, and someone else in the driver’s seat, but could not confirm it was Zulu.

Masuku argued yesterday that the similarity between the descriptions did not mean these were “one and the same” people.

He submitted that the fact that Zulu was wearing khaki that night could be “mere coincidence”.

Masuku submitted that Zulu should not be penalised for not testifying at his trial to confirm the identity of the driver, and said that if the court found that he ought to have done so, the case should be sent back to the magistrate’s court to give him that opportunity.

Masuku said he stood by his written submissions that the sentences imposed on Zulu were “too harsh” and were unlikely to reform or rebuild Zulu, but were more likely to “break him” as he would never be able to pursue a business or political career.

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