Durban - Respect the rule of law. That was the court’s message on Tuesday to the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), as they were urged not to take the law into their own hands after two school principals, a district director and a former school principal, were granted bail at the uMlazi Magistrate’s court on Tuesday on conspiracy to commit murder.
Mfundi Sibiya, 54, a Department of Education district director in the Ugu district, Lindani Mkhize, 40, a principal at Gobhela Primary School, Mhlengi Luthuli, 38, a principal at Bonguzwane High School, and Xolani Myeza, 38, a former school principal, are alleged to have instructed Andile Zulu and Lungisani Makhoba to kill a South Coast principal.
Nkosinathi Zondi, who was a principal at Nyonemhlophe High School, was shot by two men at his uMlazi home last May and Ndolile Shezi, Zulu, Makhoba and Sandile Mzizi were charged with murder last year.
Charges against Shezi and Mzizi were withdrawn this year, while Zulu and Makhoba were refused bail and are due back in court tomorrow.
Mzizi, who was a school governing body chairman at Khathi High School near Hibberdene, had been accused of organising the hit on Zondi and, according to the investigating officer, Xolani Mlungwana, had since turned State witness.
Magistrate Suraj Harilal, in his judgment on Tuesday, said there appeared to be great public interest in the case and the investigating officer, during his evidence in chief, had alleged that members of the local community and Sadtu were opposed to the applicants being released on bail.
“The investigating officer is in possession of a petition signed by approximately 50 members of the public and 100 members of Sadtu, Durban South branch. Members of Sadtu have threatened to go on strike if the applicants are granted bail,” he said.
Harilal said it was clear that the court was not dealing with “an uneducated, violent mob of people” who would resort to jungle justice and drag the applicants out of court and simply execute them in public.
“The members of Sadtu are professional educators who should, by virtue of their professional calling, not only respect the rule of law, but actively promote its implenmentation as part of the holistic education of our youth,” said Harilal.
He urged Sadtu members to understand that the court could not ignore the law or bend the rules to give heed to the content of their petition.
Harilal granted the men bail because they were not flight risks and would not interfere with or intimidate witnesses.
“The investigating officer conceded that there was a point when the State witness, Mzizi, was being sought by police and was at large. During this period there were no reports of any threats or intimidation against this witness.”
Harilal said the applicants were all now aware of the identity of this State witness, as well as the nature of his proposed evidence, and the investigating officer had said in court how Mzizi’s evidence would play a pivotal role on behalf of the State.
“The witness was released from custody on March 27, three days before applicants were arrested. Sandile Mzizi still resided at the address on the charge sheet; applicant one (Sibiya) was aware of this address, as according to evidence given by the investigating officer, in any event applicant one (Sibiya) knew the address, they live on the same street and close to each other, there had been no reports of any threats, attempted attacks, or intimidation of Sandile Mzizi since his release,” said Harilal.
Yesterday, the court was told by prosecutor Yuthika Munsaur that Mzizi had been arrested on a charge of possession of an unlicensed firearm and had been remanded in custody until May 9 for a bail application.
Harilal said it was almost certain that the State would oppose bail in this new matter.
“The witness is in custody at Umzinto prison outside of the reach of the applicants; if the applicants are granted bail the State has ample time until May 9 to make fresh arrangements for Mzizi to be placed in a witness protection programme…”
Sibiya was granted R5 000 bail and the rest of the men were granted R3 000 bail.