South Africa

IN THE COURTROOM

‘Mamelodi’s Number 1 Tsotsi’ won’t take the stand in murder trial following four-year court saga

The man dubbed Mamelodi’s Number 1 Tsotsi, Vusi ‘Khekhe’ Mathibela speaking to his legal representative during his appearance at the Pretoria High Court, 12 April 2022. PHOTO: Supplied

Taxi boss Vusi ‘Khekhe’ Mathibela was arrested in 2016 in connection with the murder of North West billionaire and tenderpreneur Wandile Bozwana almost seven years ago. After years of delays, the trial proceeded in the Gauteng North high court last week. 

The trial of the man labelled as “Mamelodi’s Number 1 Tsotsi”, Vusi ‘Khekhe’ Mathibela, finally resumed in the Gauteng North high court in Pretoria on 11 April 2022, following a series of delays since its commencement in 2018. 

Mathibela faces charges of murder and attempted murder, together with co-accused Sipho Hudla, Robert Mutapa and Bonginkosi Paul Khumalo. 

Their case stems from the murder of North West billionaire and tenderpreneur Wandile Bozwana, who died in a hail of bullets on 2 October, 2015 while riding in a car with his business partner Mpho Baloyi, who was at the wheel. Baloyi managed to drive to a nearby petrol station to seek help for Bozwana and herself, but Bozwana died later that day in hospital.   

State Prosecutor Jennifer Cronje told the court at the beginning of the trial in 2018 that inspection of the accused’s cellphones revealed that they were in close proximity to Bozwana and Baloyi at the Nelson Mandela Square on the day of the shooting.

Cronje also asserted that CCTV footage obtained by investigators in the case revealed that the accused were following Bozwana and Baloyi while they were at Nelson Mandela Square that day. 

Cronje said that two of the accused, Hudla and Mutapa, then followed Bozwana and Baloyi on their way to Pretoria before ambushing the pair on the N1 highway near the Garsfontein off-ramp. Cronje presented the court with ballistic evidence showing that Hudla and Mutapa had opened fire on Bozwana and Baloyi. She also presented confessions from Hudla and Mutapa in which the accused admitted guilt for the murder of Bozwana and the attempted murder of Mpho Baloyi. Baloyi gave evidence in court and identified Hudla and Mutapa as her and Bozwana’s attackers.  

In October 2018, Advocate Annelene van den Heever for the defence, twice asked the court for a postponement, citing a lack of time to consult her clients, who were and are still in custody at the Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria. 

Van den Heever told the court that on the first occasion she had been denied access to her clients at the prison despite having made arrangements with prison authorities to see them. She said on the second occasion, the time allotted to her to consult her clients was not enough as she was only allowed to see them on Fridays for a period of four hours. A postponement was granted and the case resumed in 2019.                                

A trial within a trial                                      

But on the day of the resumption of the case in 2019, the defence called for a trial-within-a-trial. This as accused number 1 Hudla and accused number 2 Mutapa disputed the admissibility of their confessions as evidence. The defence asserted that the confessions of the two accused were not made voluntarily but were obtained under duress. 

Their confessions stated that they were hired by accused number 3 Vusi “Khekhe” Mathibela to kill Bozwana, allegedly for having an affair with Mathibela’s wife. Mathibela was then said to have paid them an undisclosed amount of money for the hit on Bozwana. Judge Papi Mosopa then ruled that a trial-within-a trial was appropriate. This put a halt to the actual trial itself as the court tried to determine the admissibility of the confessions made by accused numbers 1 and 2. 

This trial lasted until 2020 and Judge Mosopa ruled that the confessions would stand as evidence in the court case.                                                              

The original case was then scheduled for 2021 but on the day of its resumption, the defence applied for the acquittal of the four accused in terms of Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act, as the accused were of the opinion that the prosecution had failed to present the court with evidence linking them to the murder of Bozwana and the attempted murder of Baloyi. The application for acquittal failed in May 2021 when Judge Mosopa ruled that the accused had a case to answer.                                                                                            

The trial was then rescheduled for October 2021 but on that day the defence asked for yet another postponement in order to rope in its own “facial recognition expert” to dispute the fact that accused number 2 Mutapa is actually the person seen on the CCTV footage obtained by investigators. The defence team also wanted to scrutinise the associated cellphone forensic evidence. The trial was then postponed to 11 April 2022.       

But on said date the defence again requested a postponement, citing the fact that it had not yet acquired the services of the so-called facial recognition expert as funds had only been acquired recently. Advocate Van den Heever told the court that the facial recognition expert would only be available on Wednesday 13 April 2022 and proposed that the trial be postponed until then. 

One postponement after another

Another reason for asking for a postponement, according to Advocate Van den Heever, was that Hudla and Mutapa had not yet made up their minds as to whether they would testify in their own defence, and therefore needed more time. But Judge Mosopa turned down her request for a postponement and ruled that the case would resume on Tuesday 12 April 2022, as Hudla and Mutapa had made it clear through their counsel JP Maree that they would not take the stand. 

On 12 April, all four accused informed the court that they would not be taking the stand in their own defence. But Mathibela and Khumalo indicated that they would each call one witness to give evidence to the court  to prove their innocence.    

Alleged extortionist

Mathibela, who was chairperson of the Mamelodi Amalgamated Taxi Association at the time of his arrest in 2016, is allegedly a feared man in Mamelodi. He is suspected by the community at large of being the mastermind behind a gang of extortionists who collected “protection fees” from taxi owners and foreign-owned spaza shops in and around the Tshwane area on a weekly basis. Taxi owners were forced to pay around R250 and foreign-owned spaza shop owners were forced to pay R500. 

Mathibela, who had been out on R50,000 bail in relation to the Bozwana murder case, was arrested again after handing himself in to the Germiston police in relation to charges of extortion, intimidation and assault in 2019. This after several businessmen, taxi owners and foreign spaza shop owners in Mamelodi laid charges against him. In this case, Mathibela was accused together with taxi boss Stemmer Monageng and Elias Skhosana. But the charges were later withdrawn in court in 2020 after complainants indicated that they were withdrawing their complaints against Mathibela and his co-accused. 

His co-accused were released but Mathibela was remanded in police custody as his R50,000 bail had been revoked in June 2019 after the court found that he had breached his bail conditions. The conditions entailed that he may not travel outside the country and that he must hand in his passport. The court found that he had failed to hand in his passport and had travelled to Mauritius on holiday at the time he was on bail. He forfeited his bail to the State.                                                                   

Closing arguments in the Bozwana murder case are expected to be delivered after the Easter weekend. DM

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