MaNtuli accused in court ‘suicide bid’

2014-03-12 00:00

AFTER dramatically declaring his wish to die rather than continue to suffer in jail, the man charged with sending intimidating SMSes to one of President Jacob Zuma’s wives, yesterday swallowed what looked like a pill in the Camperdown Magistrate’s Court.

Minutes after being escorted from court, Steven Masunga collapsed.

The Witness caught glimpses of him through an open doorway, writhing on the ground, his chest heaving violently.

After about 10 minutes Masunga — who is an asthmatic — allowed his brother to pull him upright, before sliding back against a wall. He then remained seated while pushing away helping hands offering him water to drink.

“I don’t want anything. I am ready to die,” he declared repeatedly.

Masunga is charged with sending intimidating SMSes to Nompumelelo Ntuli (known as MaNtuli) and threatening to expose her “secrets” in order to get her to arrange a business meeting with the president.

A Sunday newspaper reported at the weekend that Masunga had called the paper and threatened to commit suicide because he did not think he would get a fair trial.

Journalists at the scene were later periodically updated on his condition by Masunga’s brother, Wilo Ongolo, during a one-and-a-half hour wait for an ambulance.

Ongolo at one stage said his brother was put “alone” in a cell and was unconscious.

Later when he went to check on him, he reported that he was “now awake but unable to speak”.

“He understands and his eyes were following me, but he couldn’t respond,” said Ongolo.

After talking to paramedics from the KZN Emergency Rescue Services — who eventually treated his brother before taking him to Northdale Hospital under police guard — Ongolo said they told him Masunga’s blood pressure was abnormally high and his breathing erratic.

“They don’t know how many pills he took or what he took,” he said.

Ongolo seemed to be upset after one of his visits to the ambulance, and reported that police there had implied that he might be planning to help his brother escape.

Provincial police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said last night Masunga’s state of health was unknown.

Earlier in court yesterday, Masunga told magistrate Thys Taljaard that he had fired his legal aid lawyer, Lekoa Lekoko, and would represent himself.

“I am still going back to the issue of jurisdiction … There is no proof that MaNtuli was ever even in Camperdown,” he said.

Masunga said although his attorney had accepted that the court had jurisdiction to hear his bail application on the previous occasion, he had “never accepted it” and that was the reason he didn’t want a lawyer.

Taljaard postponed the case to April 8 to enable the state to finalise its outstanding investigations, including an analysis of cellphone records needed to prove from which cellphone towers certain alleged messages were sent.

Moments later Masunga blurted out that he would rather die than remain in jail.

“I am prepared to give up my life rather than continue suffering in prison. I am not prepared to continue with this case and I am ready to die … Tell Ma that I am sorry for what I did,” he declared.

The next moment Masunga put something, which looked like a pill, into his mouth, and gulped it down with water from a bottle he was carrying with him.

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