Durban - A National Freedom Party leader in KwaMashu who is facing a charge of murder and attempted murder had a cast-iron alibi, his lawyer said on Monday – he was with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the time.
Bhungu Gwala, his sons, Bonginhlanhla and Mjabulelwa, and Sbusiso Ncengwa, are accused of the murder of Celiwe Shezi, 31, who was shot dead during a protest in KwaMashu on October 6. Another protester was injured in the shooting.
The protest near KwaMashu Hostel was over the October 6 abduction of IFP councillor Themba Xulu, whose bullet-riddled body was found two days later.
But Gwala, the local NFP leader, was in a meeting with Mthethwa when he received a phone call about people protesting outside his house, defence attorney Siphiwe Moloi told the Ntuzuma Magistrate’s Court yesterday. “When he got there, there were police there. There was no shooting at that time,” he said. “If there was, it happened before he arrived.”
Gwala, Bonginhlanhla and Ncengwa made their first court appearance yesterday, and were all smiles as they hugged relatives and NFP supporters in the packed courtroom.
Their bail application has been set down for tomorrow after the court refused the State’s request for a one-week adjournment. Gwala’s other son, Mjabulelwa, appeared in court on Friday on the same charges and his matter was adjourned to Friday.
Prosecutor Anisha Govender asked yesterday for a week’s adjournment, citing as reasons the safety of the witness and the accused and the need for an identity parade.
The State had also not yet established the witness’s residential address, she said.
Moloi opposed the adjournment, saying the State had had ample time to investigate the matter. Moloi said the accused had handed themselves to the Ntuzuma police a day after hearing that they were wanted.
“They were only placed under arrest about three to four hours later, after being informed that a warrant of arrest had been issued for them the previous day,” he told the court.
Magistrate Zinhle Mnguni dismissed the request for the adjournment, saying it was unjustified because the accused had handed themselves to police. “If the police do not know the whereabouts of the witness, how will the accused know?” he said, referring to the State’s fear that the life of the witness might be in danger.