Murder accused go free

2016-11-16 06:01
A photo of murdered Alfred “Chencha” Helepi at his funeral, surrounded by mourners who were mostly footballers. Photo: Teboho Setena

A photo of murdered Alfred “Chencha” Helepi at his funeral, surrounded by mourners who were mostly footballers. Photo: Teboho Setena

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The case of slain former Moroka Swallows player and tavern owner Alfred “Chencha” Helepi has become clouded by controversy. At the hearing of the case on Thursday (10/11), the Bloemfontein Regional Court struck the matter off the roll and the Bloemfontein High Court subsequently ordered that the accused be released.

Adding to the controversy is that a warrant of arrest for the five accused was issued after their release.

Phaladi Shuping, spokesperson of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in the Free State, confirmed that a warrant of arrest of the five accused was issued on the same day last week. The accused are Lesotho nationals Dira Moreenyane (32), Nthabiseng Lempe (32) and Alice Majake (27) and two South Africans, Ntsane Togowe (37) from Rocklands in Bloemfontein and Banzini Gxamza (33) from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.

Apparently, the investigator of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), the Hawks, obtained the warrant of arrest after clarifying and giving reasons that the magistrate who presided over the matter on the day had made a mistake in releasing the accused. The accused were freed without any conditions after months in custody since their arrest in March. The state also opposed their bail application in the process.

Shuping says the regional court struck the matter off the roll because it had been pending for some time following numerous postponements. He said requests for another postponement was made in September by the investigator as part of further investigation into the brutal killing of Helepi (70) and the nature of the incident.

Shuping says the investigator was in the process of finalising the investigation, hence an application for a warrant of arrest was obtained on the same the day the five accused were released. All of the accused faced three charges, namely housebreaking with the intent to commit a crime, robbery with aggravating circumstances and murder.

The five were represented by Legal Aid South Africa’s Machini Motloung and Saintin Seitheisho. Motloung said the matter had been postponed on numerous occasions to allow the state to conduct further investigations, yet they still did not have a docket. He says as the legal team representing the five, they argued that the charges be struck off the court roll as the state did not have a case. Motloung says he was unaware of a warrant of arrest for their clients, who were eventually freed last Thursday after seven months in custody, much to the dismay of Helepi’s family.

“As a family we are extremely disappointed and devastated. The lives of the witnesses are in danger. The magistrate decided to release the suspects without considering that they are a flight risk and could jeopardise the investigation,” said Sello Helepi, spokesperson of the family.

According to the police, Helepi was attacked while in his bathroom and was shot three times in his upper body and legs.

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