Investigator grilled in bail hearing
The policeman investigating murder charges against an NFP councillor and his co-accused on Thursday said they would be killed if granted bail.
He also drew gasps and laughter from the public gallery at the Durban Regional Court when he admitted he had not studied all the witness statements in his possession, nor the cellphone records of the accused.
Councillor Bhungu Gwala, two of his sons, Celimpilo and Bonginhlanhla, Skhumbuzo Nxumalo and Sibusiso Ncengwa, have been charged with the murder of IFP supporter Celiwe Shezi, 31, and the attempted murder of two others on October 6.
Bonginhlanhla is currently out on R20 000 bail.
Shezi had been part of a group of IFP members who were shot at while marching at the KwaMashu hostel for the release of their councillor, Themba Xulu, who had been abducted the previous day.
Xulu was later found dead.
Police Captain Nkosiyakhe Ntenga, who is opposing bail in the case, told the court if the accused were released it would bring back the kind of political violence seen in the 1980s.
“The IFP members believe that accused number three (Gwala) was involved in Xulu’s death. I don’t believe that, if released on bail, he will stand trial, because he will be killed,” he said, to the astonishment of many in the public gallery.
Defence lawyer, advocate Paul Jorgensen, then asked the policeman if he believed Gwala would tamper with evidence if he was released on bail, and Ntenga’s response was that the witnesses would die.
“Is there any evidence that he will tamper with the evidence?” Jorgensen asked.
Ntenga’s response was: “Yes, but I don’t know how he is going to do this,” he said to much laughter.
In his evidence in chief, Ntenga had said a witness’s statement had identified Gwala as having being one of three people shooting.
However, during cross-examination, Ntenga said Gwala had not shot at the protesters, but had only challenged them to come over while others did the shooting.
Jorgensen then told him it was an offence to make conflicting statements while under oath.
Ntenga raised more eyebrows when he told the court he had not read some of the statements in his docket, saying it was easier to remember those he had taken himself.
“So you don’t know if there are statements that favour the accused?”
Ntenga’s response was: “Maybe, I don’t know.”
Jorgensen then put it to him that he was reluctant to answer questions that might benefit the accused. “You are not objective as an investigating officer,” he said.
Ntenga later told the court that although he had been in possession of an MTN report proving that another of Gwala’s sons, Mbekeleni, had phoned him on the day of the shooting, he had not looked at it.
“You agree that if people are in the same house they will not call each other?” Jorgensen asked.
Ntenga told the court that he did phone people who were in the same house as him, prompting more laughter.
Advocate Siphiwe Moloi, who is representing Celimpilo and Ncengwa, told Ntenga that he was biased in his evidence.
Moloi put it to Ntenga that he had told the court that IFP people were going to kill the accused if they were released, but he denied this.
Moloi then asked him who would kill them, if not the IFP.
Ntenga refused to give a direct answer and simply said, “Anyone under the sun.”
“You are just happy to be in a contest of words which does not help the magistrate make a decision. I am sure the IFP will not agree that it is an organisation that will go around killing people,” Moloi said.
However, Ntenga insisted he had not named the IFP, and that anyone could kill them.