Witnesses lied in taxi war trial

2013-03-27 21:30
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Mbombela - Three men accused of masterminding a taxi war should be acquitted, the Mbombela circuit of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria heard on Wednesday.

"I cannot dispute the fact that during the taxi war incidents many people got killed," defence lawyer Hendrik Potgieter said.

However, the evidence of State witnesses Kenneth Nkosi and Michael Grey "incriminate not only my clients, but many other people".

Potgieter was making his closing arguments in the trial of Samuel "Vuyo" Manganye, Calvin Lubisi, and Mfanufikile "Mamelodi" Mbonani.

They have pleaded not guilty to 12 charges, including three counts of murder, attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, kidnapping, and illegal possession of 9mm pistols and revolvers.

They are also accused of illegal possession of AK-47 assault rifles and ammunition, and of pointing a firearm during the taxi conflict in Mpumalanga and Gauteng in the 1990s.

The three are accused of masterminding a taxi war between the Federated Local and Long Distance Taxi Association (FELLDTA), its affiliate the Successful United Taxi Association (Suta), and the SA Local and Long Distance Taxi Association (SALLDTA) and its smaller affiliates.

Potgieter told the court evidence given by Nkosi, or anyone suggesting that Manganye gave them orders to shoot and kill SALLDTA members, was highly improbable.

"Grey admitted in court he didn't know Manganye. The fact that he received orders to shoot and kill SALLDTA members from Lubisi, and that Mbonani was their driver during the shootings, is also improbable," he said.

Potgieter said Nkosi lied when he testified that Grey introduced him to Manganye along with Lubisi in 2004 when he was looking for a job.

"Lubisi was at the time in Hazyview and not in Pretoria. The witness also lied that SALLDTA taxis operated in Mamelodi, as that never happened," he said.

Potgieter said there were a number of improbabilities in the witnesses' versions.

The State had to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt if the three men were to be found guilty, he said.

Prosecutor Eric van der Merwe said all three accused knew about a hit squad and all the shootings in Mpumalanga and Gauteng.

"These three accused had a common purpose to shoot and kill other taxi operators and should be found guilty," Van der Merwe said.

Justice Elias Matojane postponed the matter to 4 and 5 April when judgment would be read out.

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