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Durban - Former Albert Park ward councillor Vusi Khoza, who is facing charges related to a xenophobic attack, has testified that he was a “peacemaker” who had tried to quell tensions between foreigners and locals.
Khoza, 46, is on trial along with co-accused Patricia Ballantyne, 71, and Sean Thabo Jacobs, 24, in the Durban Regional Court.
They are charged with public violence in connection with a January 2009 mob attack at Africa Venture House in Yusuf Dadoo (Broad) Street, in which foreigners were assaulted and some were thrown out of a window of the building.
Victor Zowa, from Zimbabwe, and Said Omari, from Tanzania, died, and Zimbabwean Eugene Madondo was severely injured in the attack.
Jacobs also faces charges of attempted murder and malicious damage to property. A fourth accused, Mzokuthobo Mngonyama, was acquitted of all charges last month.
Khoza, a former ANC member, now provincial secretary of the National Freedom Party, was adamant that he would not do anything to taint his image.
“I was a well-known public figure and easily identifiable. Why would I be part of this? I am a politician – I do things that would benefit me politically. Starting xenophobic violence would go against the laws and it would not have benefited me. It would affect my prospects as a politician.”
Madondo, who testified earlier in the trial, said Khoza had been the “war general” who had led the mob, and that Jacobs had attacked him with a knobkierie.
Another witness, Siphesihle Msimango, said she had seen Khoza, Ballantyne and Jacobs at the scene of the incident before the men were thrown out of the building.
Khoza said he had been at home with his family on the night of the attack.
“Our flat is next to the Venture Africa building, but I never went to that building on that night. I was not there. It is inconceivable that anyone in sober mind could undertake such a ghastly crime.”
He added that there had been tension between foreigners and South Africans in Albert Park before the attack.
“A few days prior to the attack, there was an altercation or an attempt to attack foreigners. Along with the police, I held a community meeting to resolve the potential conflict and quell the tension. We did this because there were violent xenophobic attacks in Gauteng and we feared that the same could happen here.”
Asked by prosecutor Blackie Swart why State witnesses would falsely implicate him, Khoza said he did not know.
“He [Madondo] was a desperate man who wanted someone to be arrested. Msimango could have been influenced.”
Khoza’s wife, Shwene, confirmed her husband’s alibi yesterday and said he had not left their home that night.
Jacobs, who had been homeless in 2009, denied he had been part of the attack and said he had been sleeping in Yusuf Dadoo (Broad) Street on the night in question. He said he had seen the group and they had asked him if he was a foreigner and if he sold drugs.
“I spoke to them in Zulu and they walked away. I went back to sleep.”
Ballantyne also denied being part of the mob and said she had been at her home.
The case was adjourned to today. - The Mercury