Durban - There were times when the murder-accused former Blue Bulls rugby player Joseph Phindile Ntshongwana could not remember things, his mother told the Durban High Court on Thursday.
“You would be asking him something he knew and he could not remember,” his mother, Phylina Letlaka said, recounting how he could not remember the names of children whom he had grown up with in Mthatha.
Ntshongwana has denied the charges of the murder of Thembelenkosini Cebekhulu, Paulos Hlongwa, Simon Ngidi and an unidentified man by axing them to death.
He also denied two counts of attempted murder, another of causing grievous bodily harm, kidnapping a woman and raping her.
He had told his lawyer, Themba Mjoli, that he cannot recall anything about the alleged offences.
The court has heard that Ntshongwana had a history of mental illness and psychiatrists who have testified for the State have said he was suffering from a schizo-affective disorder.
But they have said that it was not so severe that he could not tell the difference between right and wrong and could not appreciate the wrongfulness of the alleged crimes.
Asked about her son's amnesia by acting judge Irfaan Khalil on Thursday, his mother recalled that she had testified on Monday that after he had been arrested and taken to Brighton Beach police station, she had gone to visit him along with a lawyer.
However, Ntshongwana had become aggressive and had chased the lawyer away.
But the next day when she visited Ntshongwana, he was calm and collected and asked her why she had not brought a lawyer along.
“I tried to remind him that he had chased the lawyer away. He said 'I can't remember' and that he would write an apology.”
She said on Monday that he had written the apology in her diary. She also testified that Ntshongwana had not recognised her on her first visit to the police station.
When his present lawyer, Mjoli, had tried to consult her son, Ntshongwana could not remember the names of children he had grown up with and that had distressed her.
Mjoli had reported to her that he was “hitting a blank wall” when trying to consult her son, as Ntshongwana could not remember things which Mjoli knew that he had known in the past.
Ntshongwana's mother said that after she learned that police had visited the family home about the rape allegation, she rushed to the police station in question.
The police were saying “in no uncertain terms” that the victim had reported that Ntshongwana, her alleged attacker, appeared to be mentally ill.
She then took her son to hospital where he was admitted.
Asked by Mjoli to comment on the impression that had been created in court that she had taken her son to hospital to avoid him being arrested, she replied: “That is very incorrect.”
It would have been very irresponsible to have kept her son at home when the police had made it very clear to her that the rape victim had said her attacker seemed to be mentally ill, she said.
“I am an attorney and I know that even if a person is in hospital… the police have a right to go to the hospital and arrest him,” she said, adding that she had immediately telephoned the investigating officer to tell him her son had been admitted to King George V Hospital in Durban.
The trial would continue on Friday when a psychiatrist, Professor Abubuker Gangat, who had previously been called by the defence, will be recalled.
This follows part of his testimony being challenged by psychiatrists for the State and the trial has had to wait for the relevant court record to be transcribed.