Mthokozisi Ntumba killing: Cop acquitted of murder aiming to sue Bheki Cele and NPA

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The four officers accused of the murder of Mthokizisi Ntumba appear in court.
The four officers accused of the murder of Mthokizisi Ntumba appear in court.
PHOTO: Papi Morake/Gallo Images
  • One of the police officers accused of killing Mthokozisi Ntumba intends to sue Police Minister Bheki Cele and the NPA for "unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution". 
  • Four officers were acquitted earlier this month. 
  • The lawyer representing one of them accused the State of rushing to make arrests.

One of the police officers accused of killing Mthokozisi Ntumba during a student protest in March last year intends suing Police Minister Bheki Cele, and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution.

This is after the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg acquitted him and his colleagues of murder earlier this month. 

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Ntumba was killed in Braamfontein during student protests over historical debt. He had just left a doctor's consultation at a clinic when he was shot dead, allegedly by the officers.

Tshepisho Kekana, 27; Cidraas Motseothatha, 43; Madimetja Legodi, 37; and Victor Mohammed, 51, faced charges of murder and attempted murder. 

READ | Mthokozisi Ntumba: Court hears that other students were allegedly shot by police on fateful day

The State alleged that three students, who were waiting outside the Johannesburg Institute of Engineering and Technology College, were also shot and injured on that day.

Speaking to News24, Motseothatha's lawyer, Emmanuel Netshipise, said: "I feel they rushed to arrest the four police officers, maybe influenced by the public uproar at the time, because you will note that even the parliamentarians, the politicians, were all calling for the arrest."

He said the accused were arrested without a "single evidence of identification".

"At the time of arrest there was not even a statement or piece of evidence implicating the four on the shooting. There were no statements of any police or witness claiming that they saw the four officers firing shots. There was nothing," Netshipise added. 

Netshipise said the first problem with the State's case was that there was no direct evidence "identifying or linking our clients to the shooting of the deceased and the three students".

The lawyer also added that during that protest, there were 21 police officers in the vicinity of the crime.

After the shooting, however, only the firearms of the four were taken for ballistic investigation. 

He said his client and co-accused were instructed to submit their firearms at the Hillbrow police station.  

"All 21 were using the same firearm with same bullets, but the State decided to take only the [firearms of the] four, so that leaves the question of, what if the one who had fired the shot could have been part of the ones whose firearms were not taken for ballistic investigation."

He added: 

The other problem was that from their ballistic result, their ballistic expert confirmed that from the four firearms that had been examined and the bullets and cartridges that had been found on scene, 'we cannot make a conclusion to say the cartridges comes from this firearm'.

"That was also another problem because that raises certain question to say, if you can't match the cartridges that were found on the scene with any particular firearm that was carried by the four accused, it becomes difficult to say these cartridges comes from accused one or four."

Netshipise believes the reason his client was arrested was because of a "pocket book" belonging to his co-accused.

An Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) investigator had testified during the trial that three of the accused did not capture the incident on their "pocket books", which are used to record everything that happened while responding to a crime. Only accused number four, Mohammed, recorded the shooting incidents. He said he was with the accused.

"Other than that, he did not admit to firing any shot, even from the beginning, and he did not even admit to being on the scene of the crime."

State's case 'premised on circumstantial evidence'

News24 previously reported that the four officers were acquitted after they brought an application in terms of Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act to be discharged. 

Acting Judge Mawabo Malangeni granted the application. 

During his lengthy judgment, Malangeni said the case needed to be dealt with on its own merits. 

He said, in the video footage, which was presented to the court, the identity of the officials was unknown as they were wearing masks and in police uniforms.

When the footage was played, he said, no one had identified the accused, adding that the court could also not see any of the officials firing the shots. 

ALSO READ | Doctor testifies about Mthokozisi Ntumba's moments before and after he was shot during student protest

"In these proceedings, there is no direct evidence in the form of eyewitness or witnesses... I mean to say that there is no person to say he or she saw the accused persons, or any of them, committing the offences in question," the judge said. 

"The State's case is premised on circumstantial evidence, being the video footage."

Malangeni said there had been 21 police officers on duty that day and that there was no evidence that the accused were given different ammunition and firearms. 

The firearms used on that day were shotguns with rubber bullets, he said, adding that ballistic analysis of the firearms should not have been confined to the accused, but to all 21 officers. 

"On the evidence presented by the State in its entirety, there is no credible evidence upon which this court, acting careful, may convict," he said.

"Fortunately, courts do not base their decisions on public opinions and/or media reports, but on what has been presented before them."

Malangeni found the accused not guilty and discharged them on all counts. 

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