Premier ‘hitmen’ walk

2010-11-09 00:00

THE National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) moved swiftly yesterday to reinstate the case against five men who have been accused of plotting to kill the KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Zweli Mkhize.

Charges against the five men — four of whom were being held in custody — were withdrawn, setting them all free yesterday on the instructions of a magistrate in Pinetown when the state advocate appointed to run the trial failed to appear in court, allegedly as a result of “miscommunication”.

The case had been set down for hearing over three days.

The five faced charges of possession of illegal firearms and ammunition and conspiracy to commit murder.

NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga explained that state advocate Ncedile Dunywa did not go to court yesterday because he had urgent personal matters that he needed to attend to, and had assigned another colleague to take his place.

“He asked his colleague to stand in for him, but there was miscommunication between them. The colleague failed to attend because of miscommunication,” he said.

Mhaga would not say whether the NPA will lodge a complaint over the magistrate’s decision to withdraw the charges and allowing the accused, who had previously been refused bail, to go free.

“It is really regrettable that they have been released.

“That is why we are taking urgent steps to rectify the matter and reinstate the charges, ” Mhaga said.

He confirmed late yesterday afternoon that the NPA is already issuing subpoenas for all the accused and said they would be served on the five accused as soon as possible.

In terms of the law, the accused have 14 days to appear in court from the date on which the subpoena is served.

Sapa reported that there were scenes of joy when Sizwe Mkhize, Themba Xaba, Jackson Chili and Mlungisi Xulu walked free at around 9.30 am yesterday.

Mkhize could not contain his excitement. He screamed and clapped inside the court, saying the state does not have a case against them.

The court heard that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) asked that the matter be provisionally set for November 16 for them to get a suitable prosecutor, but the magistrate refused to grant the postponement.

The magistrate said the matter will be put back on the roll once the state is ready to proceed. The accused will be subpoenaed once the state is ready.

The reason four of the accused were denied bail earlier this year was that the court felt that they were likely to evade trial.

Only one of the accused, Sthembiso Mthembu, was released on R2 000 bail.

Xaba, Mkhize, Xulu and Chili were denied bail in part because they also had pending cases and previous convictions.

Mkhize’s included a suspended sentence for statutory rape.

Chili was sentenced to three years for being in possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition. He was released in October 2009.

Xulu was sentenced in 2006 to 10 years for armed robbery. Six years were suspended and he was released on parole in October 2009.

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