Twists in dam body mur­der trial

Grocott's Mail - - NEWS - By SUE MACLENNAN

Def­i­ni­tions within the Doc­trine of Com­mon Pur­pose, and what out­side a court of law might be viewed as se­man­tics, fea­tured in the ar­gu­ment for con­vic­tion of four men who stand accused of mur­der­ing Gra­ham­stown man Them­be­lani Qwakanisa. Qwakanisa’s mu­ti­lated body was found in Zion Dam in Ex­ten­sion 6 on 5 Oc­to­ber 2016. He had been bru­tally tor­tured.

Them­bani Onceya rep­re­sented by at­tor­ney Henry Charles of Le­gal Aid SA, Akhona Onceya (Viwe Mqeke from Mqeke At­tor­neys), Si­mamkele Theron Onceya (ad­vo­cate Charles Stam­per) and Mzwanele De­gree Maki (ad­vo­cate Jock McCon­nachie) all main­tained their not-guilty plea last week. Maki, 26, in De­cem­ber 2017 had pleaded guilty to as­sault with in­tent to do griev­ous bod­ily harm.

Ac­cord­ing to the State’s in­dict­ment Qwakanisa had been sus­pected by the four men of steal­ing a lap­top be­long­ing to Them­bani. A post-mortem re­port from Dr Stu­art Dwyer ear­lier in the trial set out de­tails of the tor­ture en­dured by Qwakanisa be­fore his death, which in­cluded hav­ing his teeth pulled out with pli­ers, hav­ing his pri­vate parts sta­pled, be­ing forced to drink boil­ing wa­ter and also hav­ing it poured over him, as well as hav­ing hot plas­tic melted on to his bare skin.

Maki threw his defence coun­sel a curve ball dur­ing last week’s pro­ceed­ings in the high court in Gra­ham­stown, giv­ing tes­ti­mony markedly dif­fer­ent from his ini­tial state­ment. In ex­plain­ing the dra­matic turn­around in his ev­i­dence, he blamed the court in­ter­preter for get­ting his ver­sion wrong.

In a strongly ironic re­tort, Se­nior State Ad­vo­cate Heinz Ober­meyer who has ar­gued for the con­vic­tion of all four men un­der the doc­trine of com­mon pur­pose, said, “The in­ter­preter must have been the worst in the world to have come up with a ver­sion that was ex­actly the op­po­site from his state­ment.”

Maki’s coun­sel, McCon­nachie, ad­mit­ted that his client’s two ver­sions left him in a quandary. His con­clu­sion was the rea­son his ev­i­dence had changed “so sud­denly and dra­mat­i­cally” was in or­der to match it to the ver­sion of his co-accused. It was an at­tempt, he sur­mised, to re­move the sug­ges­tion that the mo­ti­va­tion for the as­sault was the al­leged theft of Them­bani’s lap­top.

Maki’s as­ser­tion that he wasn’t present when Qwakanisa ac­tu­ally died led to an ar­gu­ment about what con­di­tions were re­quired to prove a per­son was com­plicit in a crime un­der the com­mon pur­pose doc­trine.

The case con­tin­ues on 3 and 6 April.

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