Durban — The body of an off-duty police officer, who was torched in the boot of his car during the July 2021 unrest, was charred when it was discovered by his cousin and mother.
This was revealed on Wednesday in the Durban High Court where the trial centred on the murder of Durban Public Order Police Unit member Zolani Leadus Zuma began.
Mzikayifani “Kayelihle” Ndebele stands accused of the attempted murder of Zuma as well as Afrika Mthembu by shooting at them. He pleaded not guilty on these counts on Wednesday in court.
Sibusiso Ndlela is charged with kidnapping as well as shooting and killing Zuma. He pleaded not guilty to the two counts.
It is alleged that Zuma, dressed in civilian clothes, had been driving in his blue VW Polo on the night of July 13, at the height of the looting and unrest in KwaZulu-Natal.
He came across Ndebele and the assailants who were helping people transport looted goods in a car that Mthembu was allegedly driving. The policeman followed them to a house in Tshelimnyama.
At the house, Zuma produced his State firearm and confronted Mthembu and the assailants.
At the time of his kidnapping, Zuma’s friends and family took to social media to seek the public’s help in finding him.
Leading evidence, Zuma’s cousin, Mxolisi Zuma, said that when they found his car, the body in the boot was completely burnt with not even a piece of clothing left on it.
He said he had been with Zuma’s mother as well as another officer, who was his cousin’s colleague.
Mxolisi, who lives in Dassenhoek, testified about the day before he had been with Zuma.
He said he had phoned Zuma that morning asking him to visit him, which he did. When Zuma arrived at about 3pm, they went to Mxolisi’s neighbour, where they braaied and drank alcohol.
“Around 7.30pm, I left them there after being called into work. Around midnight I got a call from Zolani’s mother asking me when last I had seen him. I told her that I left him with my other cousins at my neighbour’s house.
“I woke up the next day and went to work. We kept calling Zolani, but couldn’t get hold of him. When I arrived home after work, I found Zolani’s mother waiting for me.
“We phoned again but still could not reach him. That’s when we phoned the uncles, telling them that Zolani was missing. I then phoned our cousin Siya and told him Zolani’s missing, asking him when he last saw him. Then he told me about a burnt car he had seen on the roadside that looked like Zolani’s car.”
Mxolisi said he went with Zuma’s mother and his cousin’s police colleague to where Siya had said he saw the car.
“I phoned my family and my friends to verify that this was indeed Zolani’s car. We were going to identify it by dents and rims on the car. Three of the rims are the same while the fourth one was different,” he said.
Mxolisi said the police arrived an hour after Zolani’s colleague contacted them.
“Police officers arrived and after that, we discovered there was a person in the boot of the car. DNA testing was conducted and it was ascertained that it was Zolani. At the scene, they were able to identify the car’s dents and the rims. I was present when police were taking pictures on the scene of the car. Police also took the engine number and confirmed that it was Zolani’s car.”
Siyabonga Zuma, who is also the officer’s cousin, who had told Mxolisi about the burnt car, testified that he had driven past the car at midday, unaware that it was Zuma’s car.
He told the court how he had been returning from Hillcrest to buy bread as there was none in Savannah Park where he lived, and on the way home had encountered heavy traffic. He took another route and it was then that he had seen the car. The trial continues.
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