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Decades later trial gets under way in apartheid-era murder of UDF activist in Chesterville

The front of the court building.

An apartheid-era murder trial has begun in the Durban Regional Court. File Picture: Tumi Pakkies African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 17, 2023


Durban - Thirty four years after the murder of a young United Democratic Front (UDF) activist, the man accused of the crime,

Wesley “Matir” Madonsela, stood in the dock in the Durban Regional Court yesterday for the trial to begin.

Siphelele Nxumalo, 17, was killed in Chesterville in February 1989.

Madonsela was previously arrested for the murder but absconded after being granted bail of R1 000.

He was rearrested this year. Madonsela pleaded not guilty to the murder as the trial got under way.

Nxumalo’s girlfriend at the time was the first State witness to be called. The woman, whom the State asked the media not to name for safety reasons, said she and Nxumalo lived on Road 12 in Chesterville in 1989.

“On the night of the murder in February 1989 it was about 8.30pm. I was at home when my cousin came to tell me that my boyfriend was calling for me. I went outside to see Siphelele and we walked not too far from my house, to a passage where we spoke for a while.

“I’m not sure for how long we spoke. I then told Siphelele that it was late and that I wanted to go home.”

She said that Nxumalo asked her to accompany him to the main road.

“I agreed to walk with him to the main road, we had to go down two flights of stairs.

“When we reached the bottom of the stairs there were four guys that I recognised who approached us. Siphelele told me to stand next to him so that the four guys could pass. However, they stopped right in front of us.”

She said Nxumalo asked the four what they wanted.

“The four guys were people that we had grown up with. I also knew Wesley Madonsela as a friend of Siphelele and it was he who first drew a gun from his jacket and shot Siphelele in his upper body.

“Another one of the guys also drew his gun and shot Siphelele in his upper body and he slumped to the floor.

“I was shocked and ran and hid in a bush. I could still see Madonsela and the other guy come closer to Siphelele and fire a number of shots at him while he was on the ground.

“All four ran away in the same direction that they came from.”

She said she ran home and told her cousin what had happened.

“He told me to go home and he would check on Siphelele. He returned not long afterwards and told me that Siphelele was dead. I was still shaking, we contacted the police and I gave my statement. The other three guys (assailants) to my knowledge have passed away.”

In a statement before the trial, National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Natasha Ramkisson-Kara said that Nxumalo at the time of his murder was an activist with the UDF, which was affiliated to the ANC.

“The accused is Wesley Madonsela. the State is alleging that Madonsela was affiliated to an A-Team that was working with South African police at the time.”

The trial is expected to continue on Friday.