Johannesburg - The police officer who took down the confession of Desai Luphondo, one of Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir's co-accused, was accused on Monday of influencing him into making a statement.
“You unduly influenced him, saying 'you need to make a deal. Make the statement and you'll become a State witness and you won't be an accused anymore,” said Annelene van den Heever, the lawyer for Luphondo and Krejcir.
“My Lord, that's not correct,” said Captain Bongani Gininda.
“Once he explained he was denied to call his family or a lawyer, you said 'make the statement and I'll arrange that your family is contacted',” said Van den Heever.
She questioned the impartiality and independence of Gininda.
Testifying in the High Court in Palm Ridge, Gininda told the court that he was brought in as an independent official to take Luphondo's statement on November 23, 2013.
He claimed to have not been involved in any Krejcir investigations prior to that day.
Van den Heever, however, suggested that Gininda had been working with the police investigating team on the case and was not called in as an independent body as he had testified.
“You were working together Ä hand in glove Ä whether formally or informally, authorised or unauthorised,” said Van den Heever.
Gininda rejected the notion.
“I'm going to argue that your actions showed that you were not being impartial,” said Van den Heever.
He asked Gininda why he had sought the permission of the investigating officer in the matter prior to allowing Luphondo to make a call to his wife from his cellphone.
“As an impartial person, why would you consult with the police? You called the same officer who had assaulted him,” said Van den Heever.
A calm and well-spoken Gininda told the court he had no knowledge of an assault on Luphondo.
“I was not going to be unreasonable and ignorant,” said Gininda, referring to his action of consulting with the investigating officer about permitting Luphondo to make a call.
“I did not want to violate any security matters which could have been put in place,” said Gininda.
Van den Heever claimed that Gininda had not even made that call to Luphondo's wife but had instead asked the investigating officer to call her and alert her of his whereabouts.
“I challenge you to bring evidence on that phone call to his wife,” said Van den Heever.
Gininda reiterated that this was one of the sensitive pieces of information he had been advised to not give to the court.
The court is currently hearing a trial-within-a-trial after Van den Heever objected to Luphondo's testimony being entered into evidence as she claimed police officers who had arrested him on November 22, 2013, had assaulted and influenced him into making it.
Van den Heever on Monday told the court that car tracking records showed that the vehicle used to transport Luphondo from one police station to another was stationary outside a McDonald's outlet for hours on end.
Her client was allegedly kept in the parking lot and not fed for hours.
“To take a hungry person to a place of food and not feed him or give him anything to drink amounts to cruelty. That's torture,” said Van den Heever.
Gininda responded that he could not answer on that as he knew nothing about the incident.
Van den Heever said that once Luphondo reached the second police station, he said he did not want to make a confession.
He was placed back in the vehicle and transported back to the first station.
“The (car records) will show that the vehicle the accused was travelling in took him back to Viljoen police station. On route, a phone call was made and the phone was passed to the accused.
“And lo and behold on the line was (Colonel Nkosana “Killer”) Ximba,” said Van den Heever.
“He was told by Ximba what would happen to him if he doesn't make a statement.
“The records show that the vehicle turned back and headed back to Johannesburg (where the accused gave a statement),” said Van den Heever.
Gininda again told the court he could not testify on this as he knew nothing about it.
According to his testimony, when Luphondo did reach the station where he was meant to give the confession, they spent an hour and a half engaging in informal talk, which was followed by Gininda explaining his rights to him.
Van den Heever questioned the nature of the engagement that happened over that 90 minutes.
She said Gininda was cagey about giving the court his log book and diary as this would show he had an involvement in the initial investigations.
She called on the court to compel him to provide these documents.
Gininda has testified that several weeks after taking the statement, he was appointed to probe other charges against Luphondo, Krejcir and several others.
The case involved an alleged conspiracy to kill Ximba.
In the current matter, Krejcir, Luphondo, Warrant Officers Samuel “Saddam” Maropeng and George Nthoroane, Jan Lefu Mofokeng, and Siboniso Miya face charges of kidnapping, attempted murder and dealing in drugs.
They allegedly recruited a man to help smuggle 25kg of tik (methamphetamine) to Australia.
When the man disappeared with the shipment, they allegedly kidnapped and tortured his brother in a bid to have him reveal his sibling's whereabouts.
The drug smuggler has also testified in the trial and confessed to stealing the drugs.
The case continues.