Cato Ridge - It was all drama at the Camperdown Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday when Steven Masunga, accused of sending threatening messages to one of President Jacob Zuma’s wives, announced to the court that he was taking his life.
A stunned gallery looked on as the 31-year-old Tanzanian national said he was “ending this”, swallowed a pill, turned to his brother and said, “Tell Mom I’m sorry for what I have done”, before being escorted out of the courtroom.
Masunga was arrested in January on allegations of trying to compel Zuma’s second wife, Nompumelelo Ntuli, to arrange a “business meeting” for him with the president.
He has been charged with intimidation, but may face further charges.
After a long hearing last month, Masunga was denied bail on the grounds that there was a “real risk” he would flee the country.
He was expected to appeal against this decision on Tuesday, but the State said it needed time to investigate issues regarding jurisdiction.
Last month, the State could not tell the court in which magisterial district the alleged offence had taken place, and the magistrate threatened to strike the matter off the roll.
The Sunday Tribune reported at the weekend that Masunga had threatened to commit suicide and alleged he had been threatened and spat on by inmates at the New Prison in Pietermaritzburg, where he was being held.
On Tuesday, Masunga told the court he was no longer using the services of his legal aid attorney, Lekoko Lekoa, and would represent himself.
He did not want the matter to be postponed and said he was “ready to give up (his) life” .
“I can’t continue suffering in prison,” he said.
Outside the court, Masunga’s brother, Wilo, said he was worried about his brother.
He did not know what pill he had taken.
He said he had last visited his brother in prison last Wednesday.
“He was doing okay,” he said.
Masunga spent time in hospital at the weekend receiving treatment for chronic asthma.
“None of us (Masunga’s family) know what will happen to him,” his brother said on Tuesday.
“He is starting to panic.”
Correctional Services spokesman Manelisi Wolela did not respond to a request for comment.