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Strike threat over principal hit case

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Durban - One hundred and thirty-eight people, including 96 teachers from the SA Democratic Teachers Union’s Durban South branch, signed a petition against three education officials and one former principal being granted bail.

The teachers claimed they would go on strike should the four men be released on bail.

This petition was handed over to the uMlazi Magistrate’s Court on Friday during the bail application of Ugu district director Wilfred Mfundi Sibiya, 55, Gobhela Primary School principal Lindani Mkhize, 40, Bonuzwane High School principal and South Coast ward 16 councillor Mhlengi Luthuli, 39, and former school principal Xolani Myeza, 38.

All four men are charged with conspiring to kill Nyonemhlophe High School principal Nkosinathi Zondi by instructing Andile Zulu and Lungisani Makhoba to commit the murder.

Zondi was shot by two men at his uMlazi home last May, and Ndolile Shezi, Zulu, Makhoba and Sandile Mzizi were arrested and charged with the murder. Charges against Shezi and Mzizi were withdrawn earlier this year. Zulu and Makhoba were denied bail and in their case a decision by the director of public prosecutions is awaited. Mzizi, who was a school governing body chairman at Khathi High School near Hibberdene, has since turned State witness. He was accused of organising the hit on Zondi.

On Friday, investigating officer Xolani Mlungwana said Mzizi was willing to enter the witness protection programme.

Magistrate Sam Harilall adjourned the matter until April 22 for a bail decision. He reasoned that by this time Mzizi would already have been placed in the witness protection programme. The magistrate also called for the State to verify alternative residential addresses by the accused should they be granted bail.

Mlungwana told the court on Friday that he was handed a petition, signed by members of the community and Sadtu members, which indicated that there were potential witnesses willing to come forward, but were afraid of their lives being in danger should the four men be released on bail.

He also said the Sadtu members had threatened to strike should the men be released.

Mlungwana had also told the court he was informed by the Department of Education that the three education officials had been suspended from duty. However, this was disputed by the men’s legal counsel who said the men had received a notice from the department of its intention to suspend the men. The legal counsel claimed that the department could not just suspend the men without a disciplinary hearing being set down.

The defence also argued that the petition and public opinion already appeared to be that the men were guilty until proven otherwise. They said this should be the other way around, especially in a bail application.

Through affidavits, all four men argued they would not be a flight risk, would not interfere with the State’s witnesses and would be willing to adhere to bail conditions. Sibiya said he could afford R5 000 bail.

Mkhize said he was willing to relocate should he be granted bail and could afford R3 000 bail. Luthuli said he also had the responsibility of being a ward councillor and could afford R3 000 bail. Myeza said he had been unemployed ever since he had resigned from the teaching profession last year. He has a previous conviction of assault and was given a fine as a sentence which was wholly suspended. He said he could afford R2 000 bail.

In closing arguments, State prosecutor Yuthika Munasur said Mlungwana had indicated to the court that all four men were implicated in the offence and told the court how each of the men allegedly played a role in the conspiracy to commit murder.

The investigating officer indicated to the court that Sibiya initiated the entire plan to have Zondi killed because Zondi was a problem as he could expose Sibiya about corruption.

“An innocent life was lost,” said Munasur.

Defence attorney Ben Dlamini, representing Sibiya and Myeza, argued that the State did not lead any evidence about Sibiya’s alleged corruption. He also argued that since the men’s arrest, there was nothing to indicate that the men would intimidate the public, and they had not done anything to interfere with the State’s case or the witnesses.

Defence attorney BM Ngcobo argued that Mzizi’s character was in serious doubt, yet the State was relying on his evidence.

noelene.barbeau@inl.co.za

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