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Durban - The four men arrested for the murder of a top artist in Berea West on New Year’s Eve appeared in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
Siyabonga Khoza, 23, Tevin Ngidi, 23, Bongani Makhathini, 26, and Ntokozo Langa, 27, were arrested while travelling in a metered taxi on the N3 towards Durban early on Tuesday and were charged with murder and house robbery.
The four are alleged to have killed Clinton de Menezes, 43, as he tried to close the door on them. De Menezes died at the scene.
Before leaving the house where the victim had been celebrating with family and friends, the robbers took a cellphone, a laptop and a handbag.
Provincial police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane said stolen goods, including two other cellphones, a wallet, a 9mm pistol and a toy gun, were recovered from the suspects.
Fisto Alimasi, 25, Mtimi Sumahili, 34, and Ngoy Assumani, 34, who are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, also appeared in the same court facing charges of possession of stolen property, believed to have been taken in other house robberies in the area on Tuesday.
State prosecutor Richard Dlungwane said bail for the three men was being opposed for seven days for further investigation.
“Police still need to establish if the suspects are in the country legally and confirm the residential addresses of all the arrested suspects,” he said.
Dlungwane said they also had to arrange for a Swahili interpreter for the three foreigners.
“Police still have to conduct an identity parade, as there has been a spate of robberies in the area (Westville).” There was a strong possibility that the accused might be linked to other robberies, Dlungwane said.
Alimasi, who had been unable to walk or stand upright, told the court he had been hurt and was in pain when he was asked by Magistrate Bonga Mazibuko to stand up straight. He had scratches on his right arm and looked distressed.
All accused are expected back in court on January 9 for formal bail applications.
* Kevin Lancaster reports that, despite the recent murder of De Menezes and residents expressing concerns about their safety, local security companies and the Westville community police forum said there had not been a marked increase in crime in Berea West of late.
Blue Security’s spokesman, Darryn le Grange, said daily crime statistics had remained consistent over the past two months, although two cases of armed robbery had been noted.
The suburb was still under threat, however.
“Westville, in particular, has always been one of the hardest hit suburbs in KwaZulu-Natal because of the combination of higher income residents coupled with proximity to numerous access and egress routes,” said Le Grange.
Westville community police forum chairman Kevin Harvey said the area had been “fairly quiet recently” with a slight increase, as expected, during the holiday season.
“We’ve put street patrols in place. They have assisted in bringing down crime. Police and security companies cannot be there all the time. Homeowners need to take responsibility for their own safety. A lot of crime is opportunistic, so always make sure your gates are closed and doors are locked.”
Police spokesman Thulani Zwane said police were working with all Berea West stakeholders to fight crime, and regular patrols were conducted.