Soweto killing could be negligence - judge

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student cop INLSA (File photo) Constable Sipho Mbatha. Picture:Itumeleng English

Johannesburg -

There was no indication that a student constable intended to kill a Soweto teenager during a raid, a judge said on Wednesday.

“Until the shooting, everything is justifiable... There's nothing that suggests that he started his shift that night with an intention to kill,” Judge Kathleen Satchwell said during Sipho Mbatha's murder trial in the High Court in Johannesburg.

“He was doing his job by guarding the suspect, but I don't understand why the shooting happened. I'm sure the family also asked themselves why this happened.”

Mbatha allegedly shot dead Thato Mokoka, 16, outside his grandmother's house in Braamfischerville, Soweto, on February 14 following a police raid on the premises.

Police had been told the teen was part of a gang and that he owned a firearm. The firearm police were looking for was never found.

Mbatha has pleaded not guilty to the charge, saying he had no intention to kill the teenager.

His lawyer, Kenneth Manyage, told the court earlier that Mbatha would not testify in his own defence.

Manyage contends Mbatha's R5 rifle went off accidentally as he bent over to search a prone Mokoka.

Satchwell said on Wednesday she could not understand why Mbatha had chosen not to take the stand.

The version of events presented by his lawyer was believable.

“It could have been culpable homicide, but this version presented by Manyage falls away because the accused did not give evidence,” Satchwell said during closing arguments by prosecutor David Mothibe.

Mothibe said: “This is a point-blank shooting.”

He maintained the evidence showed Mbatha had the intention to kill.

One witness told Mbatha that the police should leave as no weapon was found, but Mbatha continued to hold his rifle over Mokoka with his finger near the trigger.

Mothibe told the court there was no danger to him nor anyone else on the scene.

The number of shots fired and the areas of his body hit suggested intention. Four bullets entered Mokoka's body, causing eight wounds, mainly in his back and head.

The court was told Mbatha said “Ngenzeni” (What have I done?) after the shooting. This was an admission of guilt, argued Mothibe.

Mothibe contended Mbatha chose not to take the stand because he knew he would not be honest.

“He knows that his version wouldn't be the truth.”

Mothibe said the shooting was clearly intentional.

“Maybe he got frustrated and angered because he felt they had wasted their time”, Mothibe said.

The trial continues. - Sapa

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