Pretoria - A distraught Alida Sanders, 73, mother of late former heavyweight boxer Corrie Sanders, was too emotional to tell the High Court in Pretoria what happened on the evening of September 22, 2012, when her son was killed.
She was called to testify on Monday, more than 18 months after her son was shot during an armed robbery at the Thatch Haven Country Lodge outside Brits while attending his nephew’s 21st birthday party.
He died the next day at Kalafong Hospital. Three Zimbabwean nationals, Samuel Mabena, Chris Moyo and Paida Fish, are on trial for the murder of Sanders.
They have pleaded not guilty.
The accused also face charges of malicious damage to property relating to two damaged vehicles at the lodge, robbery, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, and attempted murder after one of the guests was wounded.
The trio were arrested days after the incident in the Oukasie informal settlement, outside Brits.
Alida Sanders, who also attended the party, said she had just walked past her son and granddaughter, Marinique Sanders, and told them to dish up food when three suspects stormed in and started shooting.
“After speaking to Corrie, I heard shots and I saw three people.
“Two were moving between the tables and one was standing at the entrance to the boma with a gun,” she said, visibly upset and wiping away tears.
She could not continue with her testimony about what happened that evening.
Judge Ferdi Preller told prosecutors he had enough testimony from other witnesses about the evening and allowed Alida Sanders to only discuss the items stolen from her.
One of the stolen items was a BlackBerry cellphone she had received as a gift from Sanders.
She was supported in the dock by her daughter-in-law, who nodded encouragingly every time Alida answered a question.
Sanders’s long-time friend Monty Kendall – whose sister is married to Sanders’s brother – was also called to the stand on Monday.
He was the first witness to identify one of the accused as the suspect who fired the shots.
Kendall had just started dishing up food with his wife and children when the robbery took place.
“I was taking a piece of bread when I heard shots. I thought it was children playing with crackers,” he said, adding some shrapnel hit him in the leg.
“Corrie shouted that he had been hit,” Kendall testified.
Kendall had a clear view of accused number three, Samuel Mabena, and said he fired at least 18 bullets during the robbery.
He and his young son hid behind pillars near the food tables before Mabena pointed the gun directly at Kendall and ordered him to lie down.
Mabena was wearing a green hooded jacket, had a beard and was short and slight in build, Kendall said.
“I was lying 5m from the guy (Mabena) and looked straight into his gun. His eyes darted quickly and he was shouting all the time.”
Asked if the suspect was in court, Kendall pointed to Mabena, saying: “I see him in the court. It’s him – number three”.
He also overheard one of the suspects telling the other to “shoot this bastard lying there” before running off when a car alarm went off unexpectedly.
“I went to my wife and children. My wife was already on the phone to the police. I went to Corrie, held his hand and told him to be strong. I told him he would make it,” Kendall told the court.
He said he had played the incident over in his mind more than 300 times and discussed it with friends and family around a fire often.
“You have to talk about it and get it out of your system to have a life again,” he said.
The trial adjourned until Friday.