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State defends itself as it is accused of using a ‘burning building’ as an excuse

Durban Magistrates Court file picture

Durban Magistrates Court file picture

Published Oct 24, 2023


Durban — The state hit back at the defence on Monday in the Durban Magistrate’s Court after it was told that the bail application for ANC murder-accused councillor Mzimuni Ngiba and others could take one hour.

Senior State prosecutor Lawrence Gcaba had asked the court to postpone the matter as it had challenges with accessing material it was going to use to reply to the bail application because the NPA building in Durban Central was burnt at the start of the month.

However, he said that on Friday they were allowed access to the building to obtain the urgent information.

The defence had said the State was using the burning of the building as an excuse to have the bail application postponed. Advocate Andrew Matlamela said the investigating officer could take the stand as he knew the docket. He further claimed to have not received a letter from the State about the burning of the building.

He said the State had to explain what it had been doing before the building got burnt with regards to preparing for the bail application.

Ngiba and his three co-accused, Nkosinathi Ngcobo, Sandile Mzizi and Sifiso Mlondo, have applied for bail again based on new evidence. The fifth accused, Phathisakhe Ngiba, is not applying for bail.

They are accused of killing Siyabonga Mkhize, an ANC ward candidate. After Mkhize’s death in October 2021, Ngiba became the councillor for ward 101 Cato Crest. However, he has since been removed from the eThekwini council.

Gcaba said it might appear to someone that the bail application could take an hour but to someone who has to answer to all four accused and look back at what happened at the first bail application that is not the case.

“I’m told this is a serious matter. On one side they are saying the investigating officer can get on the stand, say whatever and go,” said Gcaba.

He said the State cannot be dictated to on how it should lead its evidence. He said he was also shocked that Matlamela had said he only saw the letter about the building in court as he had sent it and there was no response from him.

“There is a read receipt, they all saw the email and I told them that this is what I am planning to do today (Monday) but there was no response,” he said.

Gcaba also said the investigating officer was tasked with collecting certain evidence in response to the bail application and he did.

Magistrate Melanie de Jager said the court was not in a position to dictate to the State how to lead its evidence. Gcaba had said the investigating officer might know the docket, but it has a lot of information.

“You can’t remember everything,” she said.

She added that there was no assistance offered to the State by the defence after it alerted them about the challenges it was facing. Moreover, magistrate De Jager said the first bail application took 9-10 days. The law clearly states that there must be fairness, she added, and postponed the matter to November.

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