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Nelspruit - One of the two men accused of stealing 112 pieces of rhino horn from the MpumalangaTourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) testified that police torture led him to falsely implicate three other people in the crime.
Leonard Sizwe Malatjie, 34, who was arrested on June 7, pleaded not guilty to housebreaking and theft during his bail application in the Nelspruit Magistrate's Court on Thursday, a Sapa correspondent reported.
“When police arrested me, they never read me my constitutional rights. After I was tortured, police did not believe me when I said I knew nothing about the crime. Through their torture, I then implicated Tata, Selby, a white man called Jasper, and others,” Malatjie testified.
He was arrested and charged, along with his co-accused Ali Gideon Mtshali, 51, who was arrested on June 6.
He said the names he gave the police were of people he knew.
“Jasper was a good man who sold me meat and sometimes offered me free of charge. I was gonna be honest with Jasper when I met him. I was gonna tell him that I lied to police after they tortured me.
“I was covered with a plastic over my head and a blanket from the neck down. Since I was handcuffed and could not move, they stepped on my knees, kicked me on my mouth which made me to lie,” he said.
Malatjie testified that during the torture by police, he also told them he buried the rhino horns at his mother's grave at Tekwane North cemetery.
“When police drove with me to the cemetery and dug the grave, I then told them the horns were not there. They then took me to Daantjie Police Station where we picked up Mtshali. They took us to their Nelspruit Civic Centre offices where I also denied knowledge of the crime.
“At that stage, I was not wearing my shoes. A policeman took them and used them to beat me up. The torture stopped there and they said they would do to Mtshali what they did to me,” he said.
Malatjie said he had known Mtshali since August 8, 2009 after Mtshali offered to assist during his mother's funeral.
“He also assisted during my sister's funeral in 2010. We became very close ever since and he assisted me with many things. As I was an electrician, Mtshali helped me to get contracts even in Mozambique where I used to travel with him to do business and also to consult a sangoma,” he said.
He said on April 22, after the housebreaking on April 21, the two of them travelled to Mozambique in Mtshali's vehicle.
“Mtshali was the one driving. But that day I walked through the border on foot and he was in his vehicle,” he said.
State prosecutor Ansie Venter said Mtshali, in his evidence-in-chief, said he was not aware that Malatjie had been to Mozambique on April 22.
“He testified he didn't know you were there that day. Now you have put your co-accused and yourself in a difficult situation. Who between the two of you is not telling this court the truth?
“I cannot answer that,” Malatjie replied.
Magistrate Christa du Plessis remanded the two in custody and postponed their bail application to June 20.