Pietermaritzburg - Former police detective Bhekukwazi Louis Mdweshu, who is accused of leading an organised crime syndicate at Glebelands Hostel, is again seeking the services of top criminal advocate Jimmy Howse.
The so-called "Glebelands Eight" made their first brief appearance at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday since the case was moved from the Durban Regional Court in June to the high court for trial.
Mdweshu, who is accused number one, along with co-accused Eugene Wonderboy Hlophe (45) and Ncomekile Matlale Ntshangase (34), were represented by attorney Andile Dakela, who instructed Howse during failed bail bids for the men earlier in the year.
It is understood that the three accused are again seeking Howse’s services to represent them in their upcoming trial, but that he would only be available in January.
The remaining accused are Khayelihle Mbuthuma (28); Vukani Manenze Mcobothi (30); Mbuyiselwa Mkhize (29); Mondli Talente Mthethwa (29) and Bongani Mbhele (33), who were represented by Zina Anastasiou from Legal Aid South Africa.
Accused two, Mbuthuma, was found guilty of a murder committed at Glebelands in 2017, which falls outside of the time frame during which several other murders were committed and for which the eight are currently charged with. He was sentenced to life in prison in April for that killing.
In May, accused seven, Mthethwa, was sentenced to five years for a murder committed in Umlazi.
Mdweshu faces one count of racketeering for being the alleged leader of the cabal and one count of extortion. All of the accused are charged with being part of a racketeering enterprise for crimes that took place at the hostel between August 2014 and March 2016.
The remaining counts are predicate offences and include nine counts of murder, seven of attempted murder and possession of illegal firearms and ammunition.
Mdweshu allegedly ran the Glebelands syndicate along with the late Bonga Hlophe, the leader of the “Hlope gang”, whom the rival “Mthembu gang” assassinated in 2015.
Judge Nkosinathi Chili will preside over the trial.
Veteran state advocate Dorian Paver said they would need to postpone the matter as Dakela was still to secure counsel.
“Mr Dakela indicated he wanted a particular counsel and unfortunately we haven’t been able to communicate with that preferred counsel,” said Paver.
Dakela told the court that 20 September had been provisionally agreed upon to allow him to find counsel for his clients.
Paver also formally placed on record two original documents “signed [in June] by the hand of the National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams”, to prosecute under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
According to a public protector report into the hostel, 32 cases of murder and 47 cases of attempted murder were reported at Glebelands between 1 May 2014 and 18 January 2016.
Since then, the numbers have risen, with activists placing the murder count at closer to 100. This number includes killings allegedly committed throughout the province by known and as yet unknown hitmen based at the hostel.
African News Agency/ANA