South Africa


Senekal: Legal teams bang heads over bail for murder accused

Senekal: Legal teams bang heads over bail for murder accused
Sekwetje Mahlamba and Sekola Matlaletsa have been charged with murder. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed.

A magistrate rules on Thursday whether to grant bail to two men accused in the Senekal farm killing of Brendin Horner. The prosecution’s call for bail to be denied, because the accused walking free will spark civil unrest, has been vigorously opposed by defence lawyers.

Sekola Matlaletsa, 44, and Sekwetje Mahlamba, 32, arraigned for the murder of 21-year-old farm manager Brendin Horner, made a second appearance at the Senekal Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

The two applicants’ legal representatives tore into the investigating officer Gerhardus Myburgh’s case as details of their arrest at a tavern unravelled and allegations of death threats to witnesses were made.

Murder suspect Sekola Matlaletsa consults with his legal representative ahead of the bail application at the Senekal Magistrates Court. on Tuesday. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed.

Murder suspect Sekwetje Mahlamba enters the Senekal Magistrates’ Court.. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed.

Machini Motloung, Matlaletsa’s legal representative, told the court the policeman’s evidence in the case was full of discrepancies.

“His (Myburgh’s) main argument is that the release of the applicants will lead to public violence and unrest,” said Motloung, dismissing any such possibility. The attorney also said nothing presented to the court by the police connected his client to the crime.

Motloung proposed bail of R1,000, explaining that his client’s financial position was tight and he couldn’t afford more. Matlaletsa received a R2,100 disability grant and he and his partner did odd jobs to augment their incomes, said the lawyer.

Mahlamba’s legal representative, Joseph Kgoelenya, told the court there was no evidence to suggest his client would abscond. Disputing this, Myburgh insisted that if Mahlamba was released he could flee as he was aware a murder conviction carried a hefty jail term.

The state prosecutor — who cannot be identified by the media due to the sensitivity of the case — opposed bail partly on the grounds of conflicting evidence presented by the defence about the whereabouts and identity of one of the applicants and his family.

The applicants also face charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances. 

Myburgh told the court relatives of Matlaletsa were alleged to have threatened a witness, warning that if she continued to help police in the matter she would not last until December.

Horner’s body was discovered in the Paul Roux district on 2 October, after he had gone missing the day before. The body was found bound to a fence, with nylon string tied around the head, on the property where he worked for farm owner Gilly Scheepers.

Myburgh told the court Horner’s skin was flayed, indicating he had been dragged on a rough surface.

The court also heard that, following Mahlamba’s arrest, police discovered blood-stained trousers in a fridge in his shack. A pair of shoes and blood-stained trousers was also found in another home in the vicinity. Mahlamba denied owning the pink shirt cited in evidence and disputed that bloodied trousers had been found in his shack.

Further apparent evidence was found on Horner’s bakkie, which the killers allegedly drove for about 13km from the crime scene before abandoning it. Myburg told the court blood samples from in and around the bakkie had been sent to Gauteng for tests. Both accused had wounds on their elbows and the blood traces were from three different people, he said.

The court heard further that the applicants had been linked to the murder by statements made by two patrons at a local tavern and by an applicant’s partner and brother.

One tavern witness claimed one of the applicants had shown off a wallet and cellphone allegedly belonging to the deceased, while bragging of having committed a farm murder.

When questioned on this, Myburgh conceded that these items were not found in the possession of the applicants. Also, the state prosecutor conceded that one of the accused had not been identified by the bakkie forensic samples, while results of the other’s samples were still outstanding.

Kgoelenya said there were no witnesses to the crime, most of the evidence presented by police was circumstantial and, at present, there was no physical evidence linking the applicants to the crime, so bail should be granted.

One of the applicants claimed blood found on his clothes was from an animal slaughtered at a feast he was attending.

Motloung asked Myburgh if he did not find it peculiar that the two tavern-goers did not mention the involvement of a third person, despite other witnesses claiming they had seen three people coming from the farm.

Kgoelenya told the court his client’s low illiteracy level should be taken into consideration.

Asked if he had taken note of this, Myburgh replied he only realised it when he took the applicant’s statement. Myburgh said he had used Sotho when interviewing the suspects, adding that he could speak and write fairly well, but not perfectly.

A small group gathered outside the court in the late afternoon on Tuesday, 20 October, to pray for peace in Senekal. The group travelled from Pretoria. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed.

The Senekal Magistrates’ court was quiet on Tuesday, in contrast to Friday 16 October when protesting groups such as the EFF, Afriforum, the ANC and local farmers gathered en masse outside.

This followed the events of 6 October when a group of farmers made international headlines by gathering at the court to demand the accused be handed over to them. The angry crowd stormed the court, and overturned and set alight a police vehicle. 

This week, security in Senekal had been beefed up, with roads near the court cordoned off. Police Nyala vehicles were positioned on strategic street corners. DM



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