Close friend testifies about final morning spent with Palesa Madiba

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Dumisani Mkhwanazi, the man standing trial for the alleged murder of UJ student Palesa Madiba in 2013. (Papi Morake, Gallo Images)
Dumisani Mkhwanazi, the man standing trial for the alleged murder of UJ student Palesa Madiba in 2013. (Papi Morake, Gallo Images)
  • Matshidiso Mkhwanazi, a close friend of Palesa Madiba, took the witness stand on Thursday.
  • The friend told the court she had left Madiba at her house on the morning of 12 August. 
  • Matshidiso is the niece of Dumisani Mkhwanazi, the man accused of Madiba's murder. 

A close friend of slain University of Johannesburg student Palesa Madiba painted a picture of her last moments with the victim on 12 August 2013.

Matshidiso Mkhwanazi, affectionately known as Tshidi, on Thursday took the witness stand in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, where she testified in the murder trial of her uncle, Dumisani Mkhwanazi.

Mkhwanazi faces charges of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, defeating the administration of justice, and the unlawful possession of a firearm and live ammunition.

Madiba went missing after she went for a sleepover at Tshidi's home in Phiri, Soweto, on 9 August 2013.

Her body was found buried in a shallow grave behind Tshidi's home on 16 December 2015.

READ | Palesa Madiba murder trial: Dumisani Mkhwanazi pleads not guilty

Testifying before Judge Prince Manyathi for just over two hours, Tshidi told the court she and Madiba had been friends since primary school.

Tshidi testified that she lived with her grandmother - Dumisani's mother.

Dumisani occupied the one of the backrooms of the house, along with other tenants.

She said Dumisani lived with his girlfriend, adding that he had access inside the house for bathing and eating.

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Tshidi told the court that, on the weekend before 12 August, Madiba had spent the weekend.

On Sunday, 11 August, Dumisani was watching football with friends.

She said, on Monday, 12 August, her grandmother left for work around 06:30 and she left at 07:00.

She added that, when she left, Madiba was making the bed, preparing to head to campus. Madiba attended UJ's Soweto campus.

Dumisani had not gone to work

Asked whether Dumisani was aware of their schedules and the times they would leave for work, Tshidi said he did - because he bathed and ate inside the main house.

READ HERE | Laws not enough to curb gender-based violence, buy-in needed from men - Justice Minister

Tshidi said, when she left Madiba at home, she instructed her to leave the keys in the usual hiding place in the garden.

She added that, upon arriving at work, she tried calling Madiba - but, to her surprise, the cellphone went to voicemail.

Madiba was not the type to not answer her cellphone, which had been a purple Blackberry, the witness said.

"When I [later] arrived [back] at home, around 18:00, I found my grandmother. I think Dumisani came in an hour [afterwards]," she said.

Asked whether she was in a position to establish if Dumisani had gone to work on the day, Tshidi said: "I found out he did not go to work when I was having a conversation with him and my grandmother, about Palesa."

Tshidi told the court Dumisani informed her that he had seen Madiba leaving.

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She said, on the following day, she and grandmother tried to find out about Madiba's whereabouts from her relatives. To their surprise, they were also not aware of her whereabouts.

They then opened a missing persons case at the police station.

Tshidi told the court there was no animosity between herself and Dumisani. She had grown up before him, adding that she cared about him. 

She testified that, two years later, on 16 December 2015, they were away when her grandmother received a call from neighbours and cops that a corpse was found inside their yard.

When they arrived, the scene was already cordoned off and they could not see the skeleton. 

When Dumisani's lawyer, Dominic Thinani, cross-examined and asked whether he (Dumisani) was at the scene when the corpse was found, Tshidi said he was not.

READ | 66 GBV and domestic violence cases struck off the roll: Western Cape govt wants answers

When they contacted Dumisani, he asked that they meet him at the police station, where they made statements and were questioned.

The State had to correct some facts during Thinani's cross-examination, as he kept mixing up dates and names.

The trial was rolled over to Friday after Thinani said he had to attend to personal matters. 

The State is expected to bring 13 witnesses to the trial.

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