Durban - A motorist tearfully testified in court how she found her dying passenger slumped in her car soon after hearing a loud bang as she neared the Candella Road Bridge on the N3 in Durban.
The State alleges that Lucky Leon Khumalo, 18, and two minors aged 17 and 16, had acted in concert in the vicinity of the N3, throwing pieces of concrete on the road, including one that hit the car Sphesihle Zola Zuma was travelling in, resulting in her death. All three pleaded not guilty to murder.
During the trial in the Durban Regional Court the three young murder accused seemed unfazed by proceedings, even giggling as a witness described how he had tried to stop them.
Before the trial got under way, defence attorney Mohamed Hassim applied for the proceedings to be held in camera.
He objected to the press being present, saying that it was not a “high profile” matter.
Hassim also pointed out that two of the accused were minors.
Prosecutor Krishen Shah argued that the objection was unfounded.
Shah said the rules were specific about not naming minors.
He said rock throwing was a contentious issue and it served the interest of the public to be reported on.
Regional magistrate Thomas Nhleko dismissed the application, saying that there was an undertaking to conceal the identities of the minors.
In her testimony, Gertrude Mankaba said she and Zuma had been on their way home from a function on the evening of November 2, 2010.
“I was driving toward the Candella Road Bridge when I noticed stones, some too big to drive over, scattered on the road. I tried to avoid them and then I heard a loud bang. I tried to go to where it was safe before I stopped,” she testified.
She walked around the car looking at the tyres to check one had not been damaged.
In the dark she had not at first noticed the hole in the far left-hand-side of the windscreen, and was approached by a tow truck driver wanting to tow her car.
Mankaba testified that the man in a tow truck had appeared less than five minutes after she stopped and repeatedly asked if he could tow her Mercedes-Benz.
Only when she queried why he would need to do this, did she realise the windscreen had been hit on the passenger’s side. She then opened the door.
“I found Zola lying down with her head between the front seats.”
She said she asked the man to lend her his cellphone to call an ambulance. She did not remember his response, she said, but an ambulance arrived soon thereafter.
Fighting back tears, Mankaba, said she got a call from the hospital later that night informing her that Zuma had died.
During cross examination, Hassim asked Mankaba if she was suggesting that the person who asked to tow her car had something to do with the incident.
Mankaba said: “Instead of him helping with the ambulance, he wanted to tow the car.”
Navine Nagdutt, of Bonella, in Durban, testified he was putting his daughter to sleep that evening when he heard the sound of tyres screeching.
“When I moved the curtain I saw three males, throwing stones off the bridge. I saw them walk to the side of the bridge on to a pathway, using their cellphones to look for more stones,” Nagdutt said.
“I opened the window and shouted. One of them saw me and ran across the bridge towards Jan Smuts Highway.”
Nagdutt said he called his neighbour, Faith Ngema, a metro policewoman, and told her what he had seen.
They decided to get into their cars to follow the suspects.
He said while he was searching for the trio, Ngema called him on his cellphone and told him she had seen the three suspects and directed Nagdutt to where they were.
Nagdutt said when he got to Perseus Road, in Bonella, he saw the accused hiding behind a post box.
He said he asked them why they were throwing stones on to the road, but they did not answer.
Nagdutt said the metro police arrived about 30 minutes later, and he left.
He pointed to the three accused in the dock as the ones he had seen on the bridge.
During cross examination, Nagdutt said that a few days before he had seen municipal workers renovating the bridge, fixing the loose slabs.
The trial continues on Thursday. - Daily News