No 'strong evidence' linking 2 accused to killing of Soweto friends - magistrate

2017-06-23 19:12
Bongeka Phungula and Popi Qwabe. (Facebook)

Bongeka Phungula and Popi Qwabe. (Facebook)

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Johannesburg - The two men accused of killing friends Popi Qwabe and Bongeka Phungula were granted bail on Friday afternoon in the Protea Magistrate's Court.

Magistrate Herman Badenhorst said refusing bail for the two accused would be unfair because the State’s case was vague.

"In the absence of strong evidence, the State's case is so weak, I have to grant bail," he said.

The families of the two women were in tears as Badenhorst made his ruling. Two unknown women cried hysterically as some of the friends - dressed in black and holding up placards which read "#JusticeForPopi&Bongeka" and "No Bail!!!" - tried to comfort each other.

Badenhorst said he found the versions of the accused plausible.

On the first day of their bail application, Alec Magaula MaMothame's lawyer read out an affidavit explaining his client's version of events.

MaMothame told the court that on the night of May 12 he picked up three men and two women he believed were passengers in Soweto.

Shortly after they boarded his taxi, a gun was pointed at him and he was hijacked, he said. He managed to jump out of the moving vehicle and made his way to the area where his boss, taxi owner Johannes Mkhwanazi, usually parked his taxis overnight. He then asked one of the men to call Mkhwanazi to inform him of the hijacking, the court heard.

'The investigating officer was vague'

While on the phone, MaMothame and Mkhwanazi then allegedly agreed to meet at a nearby police station to open a hijacking case. However, while there, the vehicle tracking company called Mkhwanazi informing him that his minibus had been found in Mapetla.

According to police at the scene, two or three men jumped out of the minibus and ran away, the court heard.

His co-accused Sandile Nkosi, who was found in possession of one the women's cellphones, told the court through his lawyer Harry Maluleke, that he had been tasked with parking the minibus taxi after it was recovered and discovered a cellphone in the vehicle, which he decided to keep after failing to identify who it belonged to.

The two women were found on May 12 and 13 respectively, after they were shot and killed. Their bodies were dumped in Naledi and Tladi.

Qwabe, 24, was discovered by a passerby in Naledi on the Friday and taken to a nearby hospital, where she died on arrival. Phungula was found dead in neighbouring Tladi the next day.

Badenhorst described the testimony given by investigating officer Constable Sibusiso Walter Masuku as vague.

"The investigating officer was vague. There are certain things he doesn’t want to disclose. Perhaps he doesn’t want to jeopardise his investigations, but in this case I need strong evidence for the court to make a decision."

'Just because he is a cellphone thief doesn’t make him a murderer'

Masuku testified that police had managed to track one of the victims' cellphones to Nkosi. However, Nkosi co-operated fully with the police leading them to MaMothame, he said.

Upon further investigation, and after receiving information from a confidential police source, Masuku said they found the minibus taxi.

Details from the tracking company revealed that the minibus taxi had been around the area where the two women's bodies were dumped. Female cosmetic products were subsequently found inside the vehicle, Masuku said.

He, however, could not say if the cosmetic products belonged to the two victims.

Badenhorst granted bail of R3 000 to MaMothame, while Nkosi was granted bail of R5 000.

Badenhorst said he increased the amount for Nkosi because he believed that he had stolen a phone belonging to one of the victims.

"It is clear that accused number two, by his own admission, stole the phone. Just because he is a cellphone thief doesn’t make him a murderer. From the State's side, I have just speculation."

The case was postponed to August 3, 2017.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  crime

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