Johannesburg - Investigating officer Colonel Christo Lotz was back on the stand on Tuesday, saying that Thembisile Yende’s murder accused, David Ngwenya, and two other suspects, had come together shortly after the alleged murder to speak to a sangoma who makes people "invisible" to those investigating the case.
Speaking in Afrikaans in the Springs Magistrate’s Court, Lotz testified that the sangoma had come to the police station, and told the police everything that was said to him by the three suspects. He claimed they had come to him to seek help with remaining "invisible" to those investigating the case, and to clear any bad omens around them.
According to Lotz, there was an identity parade with nine people, including the suspect and others between the ages of 39 and 47, who were almost the same height and body weight, and who wore similar clothing to Ngwenya.
When the witness – the sangoma, who was the only one called to point out the suspect - was told to point out the suspect, he had pointed at Ngwenya, within 38 seconds and with unwavering certainty.
Lotz told the court that he believed the person who went with the suspect to the sangoma was a family member of the sangoma. Lotz said he never asked the sangoma if he had been paid for his services, and had last seen him at the ID parade at the police station.
The court heard that the suspect had engaged in heated altercations with the deceased several times, due to work-related issues, and that they had known each other for more than a year, with the suspect allegedly visiting Yende at her place of work occasionally.
According to the investigating officer, Yende's mother showed him emails that her daughter had sent her, detailing her fears because of fights she had had with her alleged lover, 43-year-old Ngwenya. Yende’s mother refused to divulge the content of said emails.
Defence Advocate Francois Roets argued that, if Ngwenya was released on bail, he would pose no flight risk. He said he saw no reason to keep him in custody, as there was a low likelihood that releasing him would frustrate the interests of justice.
'Innocent until proven guilty'
He said that the case hung on a "phantom magician", and that there was no proof that Ngwenya had any involvement with him.
"There is no need to keep the suspect in prison as an anticipatory form of justice. He must be regarded as innocent until proven guilty," he argued.
State prosecutor Abrie Claasens countered by saying that there was evidence supporting Ngwenya’s involvement - from the identity parade, two other suspects, and a witness - which showed that the murder occurred in the way that the investigating officer detailed in his statement.
Claasens said that the post-mortem had revealed that Yende’s death was caused by being hit over the head with an object, as well as strangulation and suffocation.
In the courtroom, Yende’s mother, Nesta Yende, became emotional, explaining later outside that it was painful to hear the prosecutor say how her daughter had succumbed to the blow on her head and strangulation.
She said that her daughter's body was already decomposed by the time she saw it. There were a few ANC and DA supporters littered in the full gallery of the tiny court.
Although it emerged that Yende’s body was dumped at the substation after she was killed elsewhere, Yende’s mother, told journalists outside the court that she could only obtain closure once she knew when and where her daughter was killed, as the death certificate was now incorrect, considering the information revealed in court.
She added that murderers should not be granted bail.
Magistrate to decide on bail
Last week, Yende’s colleague, Ngwenya, was arrested in Springs, and charged with premeditated murder after Yende’s body was found at Eskom’s Pietersboth substation in Springs, ten days after she was reported missing. Her death was staged as a suicide.
According to Claasens, when the accused was apprehended, a set of keys matching those of the room where 29-year-old Yende was found, were found on him. He suggested that there was evidence that this was the premeditated murder of a woman who was going to spill the beans on her lover for his alleged involvement in a copper theft syndicate.
Claasens argued that, whether or not there was money exchanged with the sangoma, it had no impact on whether the sangoma was a credible witness. He requested that bail be denied.
A judgment on bail is due to be handed down on Thursday, June 29, after Magistrate Cornell Pretorius said she would not have enough time to deliver her judgment on Tuesday.
Earlier, a request by a journalist to use cameras in court was denied by Pretorius, who said that the relevant documents were not submitted at least 24 hours in advance, and that it would not be just or fair to have the proceedings recorded.