Six killed ‘by mistake’ in taxi war

2018-10-17 15:53
Policeman on trial says he has an alibi.

Policeman on trial says he has an alibi.

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A policeman is standing trial for the cold-blooded murders of six people he allegedly mistook as his targets in Ladysmith four years ago.

Lungisani Arnold Mgaga has pleaded not guilty in the Pietermaritzburg high court to the killings as well as five charges of attempted murder on October 11, 2014.

He was stationed in Gauteng at the time but his home is in Ekuvukeni Township, Ladysmith.

Mgaga has denied all the allegations, saying that he has an alibi for the day in question. In addition, he claims that from June 2013 to November 2014, he was on incapacity leave following an accident in which he sustained serious injuries.

To challenge his version, the state on Tuesday called a police officer to testify about all the leave Mgaga had taken during that period, which has been captured on the police computer system.

Captain Bellina Mothape said that records show that from August 23, 2014 to October 21, 2014, Mgaga was on leave without pay. She denied that he was on incapacity leave, saying he would have had to provide proof to cover the period of absence.

None had been submitted.

The state’s indictment said that Mgaga along with two others allegedly first opened fire at a car with five occupants in Ladysmith.

The motive was related to ongoing strife between the Mabaso and Gamede families, who were also in conflict over “lucrative” taxi routes.

The gunmen were affiliated to the Gamede group.

The killings were apparently in retaliation for the murder of a member of the Gamede group. It was believed it had been carried out by the Mabaso group, said the indictment.

The occupants of the car had attended a wedding in the town and were on their way back home to Gauteng when the gunmen opened fire, killing one person. Four others were seriously injured.

The assailants were heard saying that the wrong people were attacked. They then got into their vehicle and drove to a car wash where they again allegedly opened fire, killing five people and wounding one. These people had earlier been in the company of some of the Mabasos who were supposed to be the targets of the killings.

It is further alleged that multiple firearms were used at each crime scene. Mgaga’s service pistol has been linked to the carwash crime scene. It is further alleged that because of the identical modus operandi at both crime scenes, the same people committed the offences.

Mgaga never reported his service firearm missing and it was found in his possession when he was arrested in November 2014.

On this, Mgaga claims that it had been kept inside a safe and that his brother — who has since died — might have taken it out.

The dead are Rachel Thembe­kwayo, Sipho Mvelase, Osborn Mathebula, Sfungo Dlamini, Mlungisi Dlamini and Muzi Dlamini. Those injured are Peme Hlomuka, Thabo Hlomuka, Hlengiwe Hlomuka, Sizwe Thembekwayo and Sakhile Dlamini.

The trial continues.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  taxi violence case

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