Durban — Two men charged with the murder of an off-duty Durban Public Order policeman - who was torched in the boot of his car during the height of the July unrest - were found guilty by the Durban High Court.
Durban Public Order Policing officer Zolani Leadus Zuma was first shot, stuffed into refused bags, and then loaded into the boot of his car.
Evidence that the court heard during the trial from a witness and participant, Nzuzo Khethokuhle Mngadi, was that Zuma was still alive when he was put into the refuse bags and then into the boot of his car.
On Thursday Judge Carol Sibiya found Mzikayifani “Kayelihle” Ndebele, who shot Zuma, guilty of attempted murder.
On the night of July 13, Zuma had been driving in his blue VW polo dressed in civilian clothes; while driving, he came across Ndebele and the assailants who looted goods from shops in a car that Afrika Mthembu was driving.
The policeman followed them to a house in Tshelimnyama.
Previous testimony was that Zuma chased after Mthembu’s Kia truck in his Polo and fired shots while in pursuit.
Once at the house, the officer confronted Mthembu and the assailants producing his state firearm. Ndebele dispossessed Zuma of his gun and allegedly shot him and in the process, a shot hit his uncle Mthembu in the knee.
Mthembu was rushed to St Mary’s Hospital in his Kia truck by his son Lungelo, as well as his nephew Nzuzo Khethokuhle Mngadi, who led evidence in the trial for the State as well as Ndebele.
Delivering her verdict, Judge Sibiya said she had considered Mthembu’s testimony which was corroborated by Ndebele’s evidence as to the moments leading to Zuma’s shooting.
“Mthembu testified that he struck Zuma on the head with an iron rod, this was not challenged in his cross-examination. The court has exercised necessary caution and is satisfied that Mthembu was telling the truth. It is the court’s findings that Ndebele indeed intended to shoot the deceased and that he knew that firing shots could kill. He intended to kill the deceased because he considered him to be a threat.”
Sibiya said she was satisfied that Ndebele’s evidence was improbable when he said that he did not know what he was doing when he fired the shots and that he did not see that the man had already been injured from being struck when he fired the shots.
“He was merely trying to create a version that could justify shooting the deceased. He knew when he took the firearm that it was dangerous and when he pulled the trigger he intended to shoot the deceased. At the time the nature of the threat had been neutralised by his uncle.
“His conduct after having shot Zuma, and leaving him lying on the ground also confirms his intentions,” she said.
Judge Sibiya found Ndebele not guilty of the attempted murder of his uncle.
“The accused’s version that he accidentally shot his uncle is corroborated by Mthembu in his evidence and is confirmed by his conduct thereafter. Apologising and taking him to the hospital is consistent with the version he was shot accidentally.”
Sibiya found Ndebele’s co-accused Sibusiso Ndlela guilty of Zuma’s kidnapping and murder.
“The second accused associated himself with those who left the scene of the shooting with the deceased in the boot with the intention to burn him. He did not at any stage perform any act to disassociate himself, even in his own version,” she said.
Judge Sibiya said the court found Ndlela to be a poor witness who changed his versions adding that she regarded his version as false and rejected it.
She said that the court found that Mngadi was honest in his evidence and did not downplay his role in helping put Zuma in the refuse bags and into the boot.
“The evidence that the second accused assisted in placing Zuma in the boot is accepted.
“The court also accepts the evidence that at the time the Zuma was put into the boot and at the time the vehicle was burnt, he was there.”
Judge Sibiya said that the court was satisfied that the State had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.
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