Murder accused case postponed after lawyers withdraw
A TRIAL in which five members of an alleged syndicate, accused of taking out insurance policies on unsuspecting people and then murdering them to “cash in”, got off to a faulty start yesterday.
Lawyers for three of the accused withdrew because they had not been paid and the case had to be postponed.
But Pietermaritzburg high court Acting Judge Sidwell Mngadi seems determined that the matter will proceed later this week.
Unusually, he made an order that the trio apply immediately for legal aid. He directed that these applications be considered urgently and should there be any snags, the head of Legal Aid must come to court to explain why before Thursday.
He suggested that Advocate Simphiwe Mlotshwa, who had been representing two of the accused and has knowledge of the evidence, be rebriefed in the matter.
“This is the second time this case has been set down for trial. It is in the interests of justice that it proceed as soon as possible,” the judge said.
The accused are Joseph Zamokwakhe Khanyile (37) of Ematimatolo, taxi owner Mandla Doda Khumalo (37) also of Ematimatolo, teacher Mildred Fisani Khoza (39) of Keat’s Drift, teacher Doris Jabulile Dladla/Zaca (54) of Imbali and nurse Hlengiwe Judith Zuma (54) of France, Pietermaritzburg.
As has become their habit, when they appeared in court yesterday all but Zuma hid their faces with scarves and jackets and, when seated, kept their heads ducked below the dock.
Khanyile, Khumalo and Dadla/Zaca told Judge Mngadi that they had no money to pay for private lawyers because they were in custody.
Dadla/Zaca said she had “left” her teaching job but had still not been paid out her pension.
The indictment details how they alleg edly plotted to kill three people — Mzomukule Zuma on August 27, 2015, Sonosakhe Mdlalose on March 19, 2016, and Bongani Gcabashe on August 4, 2016.
Another charge relates to the attempted murder of an allegedly mentally challenged woman, Thandeka Gwala, on November 20, 2015.
The modus operandi, it is alleged, is that they obtained their victim’s identity documents and took out life insurance policies in their names.
They then drugged them, using alcohol laced with mandrax or sleeping tablets, and when they were incapacitated, ran over them in “staged” accidents.
Zuma and Mdlalose died immediately from “blunt force injuries”.
Gwala survived, but was seriously injured.
Their plan for Gcabashe, it is alleged, was foiled when “their attempts to intoxicate him” failed.
Instead, they took him to a tuck shop, asked him to buy them airtime and, as he walked away, he was shot.
The indictment states that the potential prejudice to insurers and financial service providers (Avbob, Clientele, Discovery, Hollard, Old Mutual, Regent Life, Sanlam and Standard Bank) was R2 855 200, but the actual loss they suffered totalled R1 369 880.
The matter has been adjourned until tomorrow and, if the legal representation issue has been resolved, the trial will start on Thursday and continue until December 1.
Murder accused Doris Dladla/Zaca (front) and Hlengiwe Zuma leave the courtroom after their case was postponed until later this week.