Former policeman Morne Croeser avoided a jail term when he was sentenced to one years imprisonment, suspended for five years, for assault.

Pietermaritzburg - A former dog unit policeman and an SANDF soldier have been described in court as dishonest and accused of planting evidence to bolster their claim that they were acting in self-defence when they shot an unarmed man.

Morne Croeser, a former Pietermaritzburg policeman, and Paul Jeke are on trial following a shooting during a joint police and SANDF roadblock at Ingwavuma in 2010, in which Sibekezelo Ndlovu was killed. The two, who are accused of murder, will have to wait a week to hear their fate. Ndlovu was a passenger in a bakkie that tried to evade the roadblock on June 8, 2010.

It was later established that the driver of the vehicle, Mthokozisi Manganyela, did not have a valid licence.

Croeser was on border duty in the area at the time.

The accused have pleaded not guilty to the murder of Ndlovu, to assaulting Manganyela, and to defeating or attempting to obstruct the course of justice by tampering with the murder scene.

The defence has said that while Jeke admits that he shot Ndlovu, he acted in self-defence. Both Jeke and Croeser claimed in their evidence that Jeke acted in self-defence when he fired at Ndlovu with his R4 rifle moments after the victim emerged from the bakkie that they’d succeeded in stopping.

Croeser also denied allegations that he tampered with the crime scene after the shooting, to make it appear that Ndlovu was weilding screwdriver.

Jeke alleged during his earlier testimony that Ndlovu was holding “something in his hand” which had made him fear for his life. This caused him to shoot Ndlovu as he advanced towards him, he said. It later turned out that Ndlovu was merely carrying a USB modulator, which plays music in a car. State witnesses testified that that they had heard Croeser yell to Jeke: “Shoot, shoot!” before Ndlovu was shot and fell to the ground.

In closing arguments in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday, prosecutor Dorian Paver submitted that both Jeke and Croeser were “mendacious” witnesses whose evidence was a “complete mish-mash of inconsistencies”.

Paver submitted that the two law-enforcement officials had failed to meet the criteria required to sustain their claim of self-defence. “When it became apparent that they had shot and killed an unarmed man, they had to resort to making the scene look like the victim had posed a threat,” he said.

Defence advocate Styx Mdladla argued that State witnesses had embellished their evidence on crucial aspects, and that no “credible” evidence existed to disprove that his clients acted in self-defence.

“This was a tragedy that occurred in the pursuance of crime prevention,” he said.

Mdladla said that the State had failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Judge Jerome Mnguni is to deliver judgment on April 23.

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