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Witness ‘not candid’ over Thato shooting

Crime & Courts

Johannesburg -A State witness in the trial of a policeman accused of killing a teenager was accused of withholding information from the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

“You and Mathebula (a previous witness) are not being candid with the court,” said Kenneth Manyage, for the accused, student Constable Sipho Mbatha.

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Student police constable Sipho Mbatha, accused of shooting dead Soweto teenager Thato Mokoka, appears in the High Court in Johannesburg on Monday, 6 August 2012.Mbatha allegedly killed 16-year-old Mokoka in Bramfischerville, Soweto, on February 14. The teenager was shot seven times with an R5 rifle, while lying on the ground on his stomach outside the home of his grandmother, Sybil Mokoka. Mbatha claims he bent over to search Mokoka when the shots went off. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

He was addressing Constable Tshepo Mokhomola.

Mokhomola was asked if he had heard a gunshot prior to the burst of gunfire that killed 16-year-old Thato Mokoka, outside his grandmother's house in Bramfischerville, Soweto, on February 14.

“No, I didn't hear them. (Constable Clifford) Mathebula would have also told the court about this shot if he had heard it,” Mokhomola answered.

Manyage asked whether the two witnesses had discussed the court proceedings. Mokhomola denied this.

Earlier, Manyage criticised Mokhomola for revealing information to the court that he had previously not mentioned in his statement.

Mokhomola said at the time of submitting his statement, he was still confused and traumatised after seeing Mokoka lying in a pool of blood.

“I've got no reason to be dishonest and there's nothing for me to hide... I am here to help the court.”

The constable also denied claims that the police assaulted at least one youth who was with Mokoka when he was killed.

“It's the first time I hear of (such) an assault.”

On Monday, Mokhomola said Mbatha was in full control of the situation and had no reason to feel threatened by the boy.

“There's nothing that could have threatened him. Thato had surrendered. He wasn't making any moves that could have made Mbatha feel threatened.”

He said visibility at the scene was good as police had told the occupants of the shack to switch on lights. Last week, however, the teenager's aunt, Mpumi Mokoka, testified there was no electricity in the shack.

Mokhomola was one of the six officers present when Mokoka was shot dead.

Police were at the house searching for Thato, who was allegedly part of a gang and accused of owning an illegal firearm. It was never found.

Mbatha has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. He said his R5 rifle went off accidentally as he tried to search Mokoka. He claimed he had heard another gunshot and tightened his grip on his rifle, which is when it went off.

Mokhomola told the court that another officer searched Mokoka before he was taken out of the shack he and several other youths had been in.

“I would have expected Mbatha to have seen what was happening (Thato being searched) because he was supposed to be keeping watch of us and taking (providing) cover as we went in.”

The court was told how another officer had said there was no firearm, and suggested that they all leave. Mbatha however stayed behind and shortly thereafter, the gunshots went off.

The trial continues on Wednesday. - Sapa

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