SENZO SUS­PECT MAY SUE

Re­lief and anger as charges with­drawn

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - KUTL­WANO OLI­FANT AND OMPHITLHETSE MOOKI

THE FAM­ILY of the man who was ac­cused of the mur­der of Bafana Bafana and Or­lando Pi­rates cap­tain Senzo Meyiwa fear for his life.

Yes­ter­day, mur­der and rob­bery charges were with­drawn against Zamokuhle Mbatha, 27, who was not in court to hear the news for him­self.

Shortly after his re­lease, Mbatha drove with rel­a­tives to Lady­smith, KwaZulu-Natal.

Yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, Mbatha’s cousin, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, re­it­er­ated an ear­lier as­ser­tion that the po­lice were un­der pres­sure to have him ar­rested.

“The po­lice were quick to re­veal him to the me­dia, giv­ing out his name and age, as if he was a thug. This placed his life in dan­ger,” he said, adding that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion lead­ing to the ar­rest had been poor.

“This didn’t make sense. Let the Khu­ma­los come clean and speak the truth,” he said.

Mbatha’s fam­ily spokesman, who in­tro­duced him­self only as Smanga, said yes­ter­day the fam­ily were “happy and un­happy” with the en­tire sit­u­a­tion.

“We are happy that he was re­leased from prison. We have many ques­tions still… be­cause we re­ally don’t know what the peo­ple will think of him. Will they treat him badly? Will they re­fer to him as the man who killed Meyiwa? We do not know how he will be treated now that he has been re­leased.”

The spokesman said the fam­ily and Mbatha would com­ment to­day on whether they would sue the po­lice for wrong­ful ar­rest.

Shortly after Mbatha’s ar­rest, law en­force­ment agents had ex­pressed con­fi­dence he had a hand in Meyiwa’s killing and pub­licly de­clared their break­through in the mur­der of the goal­keeper.

But 12 days on yes­ter­day, Gaut­eng po­lice gen­er­als were left with egg on their faces as charges against their prime sus­pect were dropped – a move that could cost them mil­lions if Mbatha sues.

In­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence, dis­crep­an­cies, in­con­sis­ten­cies and a lot of con­tra­dic­tion in wit­ness state­ments prompted the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Au­thor­ity to with­draw the charges against the Vosloorus man, NPA spokesman Nathi Mn­cube said out­side the Boks­burg Mag­is­trate’s Court yes­ter­day.

Ear­lier in court, pros­e­cu­tor Gertrude Mar­ket had told mag­is­trate Daniel Thu­lare that there were new de­vel­op­ments in the case and that the po­lice were fol­low­ing up on new leads.

There was also the pos­si­bil­ity of iden­tity pa­rades be­ing held again, she ex­plained to the court.

The Star un­der­stands that only two out of seven wit­nesses at the iden­tity pa­rade had pointed out Mbatha as a sus­pect in Meyiwa’s mur­der.

The Star re­ported last week that Mbatha’s friends and fam­ily main­tained his in­no­cence.

They said Mbatha – who worked at a lo­cal car­wash – usu­ally washed and drove both Khu­malo and Meyiwa’s cars when they were brought in.

The Star un­der­stands that Mbatha lost his job at a con­struc­tion company at the Chris Hani Mall in Vosloorus two weeks ago.

The Meyiwa fam­ily spokes­woman, Jab­ulile Buthelezi, said they would not be com­ment­ing on the mat­ter for now.

Yes­ter­day, a se­nior re­searcher at the In­sti­tute for Se­cu­rity Stud­ies, Jo­han Burger, said the po­lice had acted hastily in ar­rest­ing Mbatha and con­fi­dently hand­ing over the mat­ter to the NPA.

“Nor­mally you’ll ar­rest a per­son when you’re sat­is­fied you’ve got enough ev­i­dence. Of course it will anger every­body. They gave ev­ery­one the im­pres­sion they had the right per­son.

“It may be the right guy, but they messed it up by pre­ma­turely hand­ing him over. It will not do the im­age of the po­lice any good. They showed in­ef­fi­ciency,” Burger said.

He said the with­draw­ing of charges against Mbatha did not nec­es­sar­ily mean he can­not be re­ar­rested and charged again.

“The fact that he has been re­leased doesn’t mean he can­not be charged again. Po­lice will have to do more in­ves­ti­ga­tion… prop­per in­ves­ti­ga­tion. If they are able to get more ev­i­dence on this sus­pect, and when con­fi­dent that they have enough ev­i­dence, they can re­ar­rest him,” Burger said.

If Mbatha can “show that po­lice acted with bad in­ten­tions or ir­re­spon­si­bly, he might have rights to sue them. But he’ll have to show that po­lice acted mala fide,” he added.

Gaut­eng po­lice spokesman Bri­gadier Neville Malila said Mbatha could still be charged at a later stage. “Foren­sic re­sults con­ducted at the crime scene are still out­stand­ing,” he said, re­fus­ing to an­swer any fur­ther ques­tions.

Shaheen Sulie, from a company of pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tors hired by the Meyiwa fam­ily days after his mur­der, de­clined to com­ment.

PIC­TURE: CHRIS COLLINGRIDGE

TOO MUCH TO BEAR: The mother of Zamokuhle Mbatha leaves the Boks­burg Mag­is­trate’s Court after charges re­lat­ing to the mur­der of Senzo Meyiwa against her son were with­drawn yes­ter­day.

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