Trial-within-a-trial to decide admissibility of man’s statements to police after policewoman’s murder
A man implicated in the hit murder of a policewoman has claimed he was under the influence of alcohol when he made certain submissions to the police.
A trial-within-a-trial was accordingly called in the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday to determine the admissibility of his statements.
Nomathamsanqa Ivy Mtwesi, 36, who was stationed at the Zwide Police Station at the time, was gunned down in the driveway of her Motherwell home on the morning of November 12 2015.
The state believes her murder was a hit, orchestrated by her estranged husband, Mlungisi Tsitsi, also a policeman at the time.
Tsitsi, 37, had been stationed at the Motherwell Police Station.
In 2013, Tsitsi and Mtwesi began experiencing marital problems and decided to separate.
According to the prosecution, the suspected hitmen had waited for Mtwesi to knock off from work and then followed her home.
They then opened fire on her while she was still seated behind the steering wheel of her vehicle.
Tsitsi, Thembani Rorwana, Msindisi Bhebhula, Ndiphe Soqokomashe, Sicelo Mbanga and Ayanda Nyumka have all pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit murder, murder, and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Testifying yesterday, Lieutenant Colonel Jackie Grobler said he had interviewed Bhebhula at the offices of the Organised Crime Unit in Newton Park on November 28 2015, almost two weeks after the murder.
He said he was introduced to him by one of the policeman on the case, and that Bhebhula’s father and an uncle, who also happened to be a prosecutor, were present.
“I informed Mr Bhebhula of the reason for his detention and that he had been implicated in a murder. I then explained his rights to him,” Grobler said. They conversed in English. “He is very well spoken and understood me perfectly.
“He indicated that he wanted to see a lawyer before making a statement but was happy to answer my questions in the meantime.”
Grobler said he went on to explain that he would be taking notes and that anything Bhebhula said could be used against him in court.
“He came across as very well mannered and made a good impression on me.”
It is alleged that in September 2015, a mere two months before the murder, Tsitsi became aware of a relationship between Mtwesi and another man. He then allegedly approached Soqokomashe, 47, with a view to having his wife killed.
After allegedly agreeing to supply the gun, Soqokomashe acted as the middleman between Tsitsi and alleged hitmen Mbanga, 30, and Nyumka, 36.
Meanwhile, Bhebhula, 26, was allegedly given the role of the getaway driver.
It is the implicating submissions Bhebhula made to police after his arrest that are now the subject of a trialwithin-a-trial.
His lawyer, Khayalethu Saziwa, criticised Grobler for conducting the interview in English, which was not Bhebhula’s first language.
In addition, Saziwa said, his client had been tired as he had worked through the night and had then consumed alcohol.
Grobler replied that he would not have continued the interview without an interpreter being present had the accused indicated that he was uncomfortable.
He said Bhebhula did not smell of alcohol and appeared to be sober.
The trial continues today.