‘Sewram had been warned’

2015-09-29 12:08
Rajivee Soni at court.

Rajivee Soni at court. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Pietermaritzburg doctor Bhavish Sewram was warned prior to his murder in May 2013 that businessman Rajivee Soni had offered to pay R100 000 to have him killed.

This evidence was given in the ­Pietermaritzburg high court before Judge Jacqueline Henriques and assessor Gerhard Barnard yesterday by a former security company manager, Professor Mlungisi Sithebe.

Sithebe, then a manager at ­Envirowatch Security, said he was asked by Soni to shoot Sewram in return for payment of R100 000, but he could not do it because he was a Christian.

Instead, he warned Sewram that he had been sent to kill him.

“I informed the doctor that he should pack his things and close down the ­surgery,” he said.

Sithebe said he and the doctor both knew that they could not report the ­matter to police in Pietermaritzburg, where Soni was “well connected”.

Sewram had said he would report the matter in Durban. “We were frightened for our lives because if the doctor ­reported this locally, Soni would find out,” said Sithebe.

He later telephoned Soni and said that he had “already shot the doctor”.

Soni phoned him a short while later, saying that no case had been opened for a doctor that was shot at Mountain Rise, Loop Street or Alexandra Road police stations.

“He [Soni] said he won’t pay me ­because there is no information about the doctor being shot. He also said his sister would have already phoned and told him if the doctor had been shot, and he didn’t receive that information.”

Soni later told Sithebe that he had phoned Sewram’s house and that the doctor himself had answered.

“I then said to him that maybe I missed him … I said I shot the doctor on his thigh, but he said it was ­impossible. The only plausible ­explanation was that I missed.”

Sithebe said he later met Soni, who “took out R12 000”.

“He [Soni] said he was going overseas and while he is overseas he wants the doctor to be shot. Soni said he will pay the rest of the money when he comes back from overseas … As the days ­progressed, I was no longer taking his calls,” he said.

Sithebe said the doctor also called him to say he had opened a case and that ­people would contact him for a statement, which he “found hard to believe”.

However, he eventually made two statements to police who came from Durban, and who “proved” to him that they were not from Pietermaritzburg.

When Soni first approached Sithebe, he had said he just wanted to “shake him [Sewram] … frighten him”.

However, Soni later said he wanted the doctor killed because he had “injected his child in a bad way so that the child was paralysed”.

Later, when Sithebe questioned this, Soni said that the true reason was ­because the doctor was “involved in a relationship with his wife”.

“He asked me how I would feel if ­another man was involved with my wife. At the time I was not married, and so I was unable to say,” he said.

Sithebe said Soni drove him to both surgeries where Sewram (whose name he could not properly recall) practised in the CBD and in Northdale. He also told him that there were no CCTV ­cameras outside the Northdale surgery, but that there was CCTV outside the surgery in the CBD.

During cross-examination by defence attorney Naren Sangham, it was put to Sithebe that his former employer at ­Envirowatch, Alpheus Mkhwanazi, had made an affidavit concerning his ­“dishonest conduct” whilst he was working there.

Mkhwanazi accused Sithebe of, among other things, “misappropriating” salaries of guards to the tune of R20 000, stealing two bakkie canopies, and illegally attempting to sell a ­company vehicle.

Sithebe denied any wrongdoing, ­saying he was “surprised” to learn that Mkhwanazi had allegedly laid criminal charges against him as he was unaware of them.

Sithebe alleged that he and other employees at Envirowatch were frequently not paid their salaries, or were ­short-paid. As a result, he received permission to take a canopy, as well as an “old vehicle with no engine and no wheels” in lieu of money owed to him.

Ex-policeman Brian Treasurer (55) and Mfaniseni Nxumalo (37) were found guilty and sentenced to life ­imprisonment for their roles in Sewram’s murder two weeks ago. The state said Treasurer had acted on Soni’s instructions and hired Nxumalo and the actual shooter, Sabelo Dlamini, who was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment.

PROFESSOR Sithebe told the court he had taken a video on his phone of Rajivee Soni as they drove to the Northdale surgery and spoke about killing the doctor.

“I asked him if the person is caught shooting the doctor, what would happen to him? He [Soni] said that he has top-notch attorneys who would be able to get him out. I then asked what would happen to the shooter, and he said that person as well, he would be able to get them out if possible,” he said.

Sithebe said he had considered Soni’s offer of R100 000 and ­“compared it” with what his life would be like living in prison.

He said he had reported Soni’s ­request to shoot the doctor to his Envirowatch employers, but they had not taken him seriously.

He later sent the video to his ­fiancée’s cellphone via Bluetooth, with instructions to take it to the authorities if something happened to him. He thereafter pawned his phone, with the memory card still in it. However, police had later ­recovered it after he told them about the video, he said

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  murder  |  court  |  soni

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