Durban: The wife of Copesville grandfather Mark Naidoo is left without closure after the men accused of killing him were released.
Naidoo, a security adviser at Hulamin, was shot while leaving his home in Indus Road on the morning of August 30, 2019. He was on his way to drop off his three-year-old granddaughter at crèche.
In order to save his grandchild, Naidoo pushed her into the legroom of the front passenger seat and served as her shield. He died at the scene.
Sanele Cele, 39, of Durban North, and Jabulani Jerome Ndlela, 42, of Inanda, were subsequently arrested last year and charged with murder and attempted murder.
They were denied bail and remained in custody until the end of their trial.
Both accused pleaded not guilty to the crimes.
At the trial in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, 13 witnesses were called by the State in a bid to prove that Cele and Ndlela had planned and conspired to kill the deceased.
According to the State's high court indictment, the accused secured a firearm in order to follow through with the plan.
It alleged that Ndlela, who was armed, approached Naidoo’s vehicle on foot, while Cele remained in proximity in another vehicle.
Ndlela went to the driver's side and fired at Naidoo. A neighbour was shot in the back as she ran for safety.
Ndlela then fled the scene in the same vehicle.
“At all times, material hereto, the accused acted in concert and in the execution of a common purpose to commit the crimes mentioned,” read the indictment.
Anand Maharaj, acting high court judge, however, found discrepancies in the witness statements, how the identification parade was conducted, and the cellphone and tracking evidence.
He said that under the law, suspects or persons on parade should be more or less of the same build, height, age and appearance and similarly dressed.
Maharaj said the officer in charge was clearly aware of the rule and made a recordal that reflected such.
He found the recordal to be inconsistent with photographs of the persons on the parade.
He also found it disconcerting that a private security company accompanied a witness to the identification parade and that the security company was contracted to do private investigations.
“When the dots are connected, it suggests that this creates a fertile environment for the possibility of collusion to germinate.”
Maharaj also found that witnesses had mentioned the presence of a scar on one of the accused during testimony in court and not during the identification parade or in their police statement.
“Had the State witnesses been honest with their identification and identity parade, conducted fairly according to Rule 8, then the decision of this court may well been been different. The identity parade in these circumstances cannot have any probative value.”
He said mere suspicion couldnot equate to proof beyond reasonable doubt.
With all the evidence considered, Maharaj ruled that the State had failed to present a prima facie case and acquitted the accused.
"The State, in my view, has not reached the threshold of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. After evaluating the evidence of the State, I find that it fails to measure up to the standard required for its acceptability in the discharge of its onus of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, both accused are found not guilty on both counts.“
Loretta Naidoo, the victim’s wife, said she was devastated by the verdict.
“I was so confident that they would be found guilty and serve the time they deserved. My family and I are disappointed. Where is the justice? Where is the closure we so desperately need?”
Loretta said she had, however, chosen not to dwell on the verdict and would try to move on and live every day in memory of her husband.