Murder accused artist insists he can't remember fateful night

Zwelethu Mthethwa at the Cape Town High Court. Photo: Adrian de Kock/Independent Media

Zwelethu Mthethwa at the Cape Town High Court. Photo: Adrian de Kock/Independent Media

Published Dec 5, 2016


Cape Town - Internationally acclaimed artist and murder-accused Zwelethu Mthethwa has maintained since his arrest in May 2013, that he cannot recall what happened in the early hours of April 14 that same year. 

He is accused of kicking and beating to death 23-year-old sex worker Nokuphila Kumalo in Woodstock. CCTV footage allegedly captured the incident. 

On Monday, the defence called psychiatrist Professor Tuviah Zabow to testify in the Western Cape High Court about his investigation into the 56-year-old's "lack of recall". 

The defence, last month, successfully applied to reopen its case after "new information" surfaced about Mthethwa's failure to recall events on more than one occasion. 

Zabow testified that Mthethwa's "memory function is intact" and that there was no evidence of amnesia. 

The psychiatrist assessed Mthethwa on November 9, and again on November 18, and focused on his emotional and cognitive functions, concluding there was no "disorder of memory". 

Zabow told the court that Mthethwa had consumed a considerable amount of alcohol on the night in question, but "did not recall any actions out of the ordinary and slept at home that night". 

Mthethwa paid for over R2 500 worth of alcohol at a shebeen in Gugulethu, and Zabow said "the alcohol could be contributory to this blank period".

Zabow said a review of Mthethwa's personality characteristics "do not indicate previous aggression, paranoia or antisocial behaviour. Overall the alleged offence and actions are 'out of character' in his pattern, emotional and personality, makeup".

He said his report had been difficult to compile because of a "critical lack of facts available". 

"Memory is a complex situation, sometimes memory is blocked, we try not to remember the unpleasant. There has been no change in his recall between when the allegations surfaced and when I saw him. This was a dense lack of recall." 

Zabow said he hadn't offered an explanation about why his car was captured on CCTV footage, "it didn't jog his memory".

Rather, he "maintained the same lack of recall for three years", even though he had time to fabricate an explanation. 

Senior State prosecutor Christenus van der Vijver pointed out to the court that Mthethwa was the only person Zabow interviewed and therefore his report was soley based on what Mthethwa told him. 

 "If he is not telling the truth that will impact on your report."

Zabow insisted that there was indication that Mthethwa hadn't been truthful, but conceded that Mthethwa could have committed the crime and just could not recall it. 

Van der Vijver said: "This doesn't mean the person lacks criminal capacity." 

Defence lawyer William Booth will call a final witness on December 12 to testify about other instances where Mthethwa cannot recall events. 

Final arguments have been set down for December 14. 

African News Agency

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