Durban - The defence team for murder accused business tycoon Rajive Soni on Tuesday made an application before Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Jacqui Henriques to recall four State witnesses, on the basis that this goes straight to the heart of Soni’s right to a fair trial.
Soni is on trial for the murder of prominent local doctor Bhavish Sewram.
Sewram, 33, was gunned down outside his Chota Motala Road surgery on May 13, 2013.
It is alleged Soni orchestrated Sewram’s murder after discovering that the doctor was allegedly having an affair with his wife, Kerusha.
It is alleged that Soni paid former policeman Brian Treasurer to commit the murder. Treasurer in turn secured the services of Mfaniseni Nxumalo and Sabelo Dlamini (the eventual triggerman) to kill Sewram.
Treasurer, Nxumalo and Dlamini are all currently serving sentences in prison for their roles in the murder.
Soni’s advocate, Christo van Schalkwyk SC, submitted that the defence would like to recall witnesses Dlamini, Mariamma Kisten, Sugen Naidoo and Professor Sithebe.
Kisten previously gave evidence that she was involved in a plan to lay a false sexual charge against Sewram. She at no time implicated Soni in the plot.
She testified that she was approached by former policeman Daryl Gounder to concoct the false sexual charge against the doctor in February 2012. Gounder allegedly told Kisten he needed this done “for a friend”.
Naidoo testified to a vengeful campaign against Sewram by Soni, which culminated in the doctor’s murder.
Naidoo gave various scenarios of this alleged campaign, which included the laying of false sexual charges against the doctor, the planting of drugs in the doctor’s surgery as well as an attack on the doctor with a paintball gun.
Sithebe gave evidence during a trial-within-a-trial portion of the case, in which he testified in relation to a cellphone video he took of Soni. The video depicts Sithebe and Soni in Soni’s car, allegedly driving past Sewram’s surgery and discussing Sewram’s movements.
Van Schalkwyk submitted that there were certain things not put to these witnesses by Soni’s former advocate, Naren Sangham, which they would now like to canvas.
He said that with regard to Sithebe’s evidence, while they accepted that the cellphone video formed part of the trial-within-a-trial, they were now challenging the date and time at which that video was allegedly taken.
State prosecutor Johan du Toit opposed the defence application, saying Kisten’s testimony was not relevant, because she never directly implicated Soni.
Referring to Naidoo’s testimony, Du Toit said that Naidoo was on the stand for more than a month, and gave detailed evidence which spans 700 pages of the court record.
“It is difficult to understand what more this man can be cross-examined on,” Du Toit said.
Addressing Sithebe’s evidence, Du Toit said that while the defence had every right to attack the admissibility of the video, this had already been done during the trial-within-a-trial, and all the evidence during this portion of the case should just be “imported” to the main trial, rather than rehashing everything in court all over again.
Henriques adjourned the case until Thursday.