SENZO SUSPECT MAY SUE
Relief and anger as charges withdrawn
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Yesterday, murder and robbery charges were withdrawn against Zamokuhle Mbatha, 27, who was not in court to hear the news for himself.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.
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.