The Star Late Edition
‘Police tortured me to admit that I killed Senzo’
Long-time friend tells court how the footballer met his death in 2014
THE North Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, was forced to adjourn for a few minutes yesterday as late footballer Senzo Meyiwa’s long-time friend, Mthokozisi Thwala, recounted how police allegedly tortured him, with his hands and legs bound together with a rope used for slaughtering cows.
He broke down as he recalled that he “peed” on a mat during an ordeal that lasted for at least three to four hours while police forced him to admit that he killed Meyiwa.
Thwala started testifying about Meyiwa’s last moments before his death, saying his friend was still alive before he was rushed to a hospital after being shot at his musician girlfriend Kelly Khumalo’s home in Vosloorus.
Five men – Bongani Ntanzi, Sifisokuhle Ntuli, Muzikawukhulelwa Sthemba Sibiya, Mthobisi Prince Ncube and Mthokoziseni Ziphozonke Maphisa – are standing trial on charges including premeditated murder and attempted murder.
Thwala told how a gunshot went off during a scuffle that broke out between one of the intruders and Kelly’s sister, Zandile, and her mother in the kitchen.
Both Zandile and her mom, he said, assaulted an armed intruder with the crutches belonging to Tumelo Madlala, Meyiwa’s childhood friend. Others who were inside the house were music producer Sello “Chicco” Twala’s son, Longwe, and Kelly’s two children.
Meyiwa was gunned down by one of the intruders on that day, October 26, 2014. A gunshot had suddenly gone off, prompting Thwala and others to run for cover. They later discovered that Meyiwa had been shot.
Thwala conceded to not seeing the person who pulled the trigger, but he said there was only one person with a firearm. He said he ran out of the house via a kitchen door after a shot went off.
One of the intruders, “who looked tall” and was armed with an object like a knife, chased after him. Thwala escaped by jumping into the neighbour’s yard. The intruder continued down the road.
Thwala said he “might” have heard a second gunshot while fleeing from the scene. Together with neighbours, they returned to the scene, where they found Meyiwa lying on the kitchen floor.
Meyiwa was wearing a white T-shirt, which Thwala removed from him, and he noticed there was a bullet wound in his chest. “I saw a hole (on his chest area),” he said, adding that someone provided a towel to put on Meyiwa’s bleeding wound.
At the time, Meyiwa was “still alive because he was still gasping” for air.
He was rushed to a hospital by car by Kelly, with Zandi, Tumelo and Longwe Twala in her company. En route to the hospital, Meyiwa was struggling to breathe and speak.
“What I said to him was that he needs to think of his children. I could tell that his gasping as well as his breathing was now going down,” he said.
On their arrival at the hospital, Thwala remained with Meyiwa in the car while others asked for help from nurses. “I remained behind with him and tried to speak to him and he was not responding much,” Thwala said.
Nurses rushed him inside the hospital, where they performed surgery. After a short while, nurses came to ask for an elderly person and were attended to by Kelly’s mom, to whom they broke the news that Meyiwa had died.
“I ran into that particular room. When I got to that room I saw a nurse as if he was covering him (with a white sheet). I opened him, but a nurse covered him again. There was an instance when I was shaking him, but a nurse told me to leave him,” he testified.
Later on, Meyiwa’s wife Mandisa and fellow Orlando Pirates players arrived. The players and Mandisa were said to be from a birthday party of one of them,
Rooi Mahamutsa. Thwala said Mandisa and Kelly hugged and comforted one another. He testified that Kelly later got into an argument with other ladies, but Mandisa was not part of the quarrel.
He said Kelly refused to hand Meyiwa’s ID to him later, in spite of the request being made by the deceased’s family. She subsequently handed the ID to one of Meyiwa’s relatives, who arrived with the police and Thwala at Kelly and Senzo’s residence in Mulbarton. The family wanted the ID to facilitate the removal of Senzo’s corpse from the government mortuary to a private one.
They also wanted Meyiwa’s belongings to be taken home to KwaZulu-Natal, but Kelly refused, saying Senzo himself “would tell her in a dream what to do regarding his clothes”.
Thwala told the court that those present during the shooting attended an identity parade at Jeppe police station on October 29, 2014. “I didn’t identify anyone,” he said.
During his evidence, he became emotional as he told the court how he was tortured by the police in 2019.
He said an investigating officer, Colonel Joyce Buthelezi, who headed a team on docket 375 which implicated house occupants in Meyiwa’s murder, and another officer known as Makhubo fetched him from his house in uMlazi in January 2019, under the pretext that they were taking him for an identity parade in Johannesburg. However, he said they drove him to Pretoria, where he was taken to Buthelezi’s office.
At some stage, Buthelezi left him alone in the office and two men entered to assault him. He said he was beaten with open hands for at least an hour.
One of the men went out of the room and returned with a bag from which he took out a “tube”. The tube, he said, was used to suffocate him by closing his mouth and nose at the same time.
He broke down as he told the court how the men tied his hands behind his back and also his feet. He said the men, who called each other “Morena”, took turns in assaulting him.
“I couldn’t breathe and I even thought I would die there. They were taking turns in doing that and did that for a good three to four hours,” he said.
The murder trial continues today.