State of mind holds up dou­ble-mur­der case

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - SHAIN GER­MANER

HE BLAMES a dou­ble mur­der on a grow­ing worm in his stom­ach. He still hears the voice of God. He has been out on bail for seven years.

Now, a new judge has fi­nally de­cided to re­assess whether Frans Ser­oba should still be out on the streets while he awaits trial.

Ser­oba is ac­cused of mur­der­ing his wife Martha and sis­ter-in­law Sarah Makwati in 2007.

Makwati was gunned down at her work­place in Braam­fontein in Jan­uary 2007. Ser­oba had al­legedly first shot and killed his wife at their home in Buc­cleuch, Sand­ton.

Ser­oba al­legedly took their chil­dren, then 10-year-old twin boys, to his mother’s house in Diep­kloof, Soweto, be­fore driv­ing to Ser­oba’s work­place.

Yes­ter­day, Ser­oba’s mur­der trial was set down in the Joburg High Court, sit­ting in Palm Ridge, but another de­lay has left the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies fum­ing after more than 20 post­pone­ments over the past seven years.

One as­pect of yes­ter­day’s pro­ceed­ings com­forted the angry rel­a­tives – the pos­si­bil­ity that Ser­oba’s bail could be re­voked as a re­sult of a psy­chi­atric re­port la­belling him psy­chotic and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous to so­ci­ety.

State pros­e­cu­tor ad­vo­cate Leonie Makoko sum­marised the rea­sons for the seven-year de­lay in her ex­pla­na­tion of why the trial had to be post­poned again.

When Ser­oba was first ar­rested in 2007, he was taken to Sterkfontein Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal for eval­u­a­tion. He was not di­ag­nosed with any men­tal ill­nesses, and a find­ing was made that he was able to ap­pre­ci­ate the wrong­ful­ness of his ac­tions when he gunned down the sis­ters at two sep­a­rate venues.

Ser­oba was de­clared fit for trial, but later he ap­plied to have a con­sul­ta­tion with a pri­vate psy­chi­a­trist, who di­ag­nosed him as be­ing bipo­lar and suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion and “psy­chotic fea­tures”. The sec­ond psy­chi­a­trist de­clared Ser­oba unfit for trial and said he had not been re­spon­si­ble for his ac­tions at the time of the killings be­cause of a psy­chotic episode.

Simultaneously, Ser­oba’s case was once again stalled as he was sent for another 30-day ob­ser­va­tion at Sterkfontein by a new panel of psy­chi­atric pro­fes­sion­als. Again, the State psy­chi­a­trists wrote that he was able to ap­pre­ci­ate the grav­ity of his ac­tions, but that he suf­fered from a de­pres­sive disorder.

By this point, Ser­oba’s pri­vate psy­chi­a­trist had em­i­grated, and the ac­cused in­sisted on le­gal aid pro­vid­ing him with a new psy­chi­a­trist. After months of wait­ing, the Le­gal Aid SA pro­vided him with a psy­chol­o­gist in­stead.

But as Ser­oba had to be as­signed a psy­chi­a­trist, this de­layed pro­ceed­ings even fur­ther.

The pro­cured psy­chi­a­trist claimed that he had not been paid, and thus could not pro­vide any re­ports on whether Ser­oba was fit for trial, but this was ap­par­ently be­cause the doc­tor did not have a tax num­ber.

Fi­nally, a Dr Roux was brought in to treat Ser­oba, and his most re­cent re­port, from May, said he needed im­me­di­ate psy­chi­atric treat­ment and was unfit for trial.

This has now re­sulted in the State ap­ply­ing to have Ser­oba sent to Weskop­pies Hos­pi­tal in Pre­to­ria for yet another eval­u­a­tion, and if he is found unfit for trial, he has to be kept un­der ob­ser­va­tion there un­til he is.

Makoko cited the na­ture of Roux’s re­port and said Ser­oba was a dan­ger to so­ci­ety and should have his bail re­voked to en­sure he didn’t hurt any­one.

Judge Tshi­fiwa Maumela said he was con­cerned he would be re­spon­si­ble if Ser­oba re­mained free and hurt some­one.

Ser­oba’s lawyer, SW van der Merwe, ar­gued that his client had never hurt any­one else over the past seven years he had been on bail.

Van der Merwe dis­closed that Roux’s re­port showed that Ser­oba suf­fered from delu­sions. He still heard the voice of God, and blamed the orig­i­nal mur­ders on a worm grow­ing in his stom­ach.

“Who knows what God will ask him to do next?” asked Judge Maumela, who in­sisted he have time to read the men­tal re­port be­fore de­cid­ing on Ser­oba’s bail.

Judge Maumela was to make his decision to­day.

PIC­TURE: BHEKIKHAYA MABASO

‘DELU­SIONAL’: Frans Ser­oba in the dock yes­ter­day for killing his wife and sis­ter-in-law.

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