Ex of suspected hitman may hold key
Who can tell us what those calls were about? Marius Stander State prosecutor
The ex-girlfriend of a suspected hitman hired to kill a Port Elizabeth policewoman could hold the key to unlocking the alleged murder plot, but according to the accused he does not see the need to call her to testify because he is in custody and not she.
Faced with a litany of cellphone records showing he had used various handsets and sim cards, including that of his then girlfriend, to allegedly contact his co-accused in the days leading up to the murder of Nomathamsanqa Ivy Mtwesi, 36, Sicelo Mbanga, 31, said he did not see the need to call his former lover, named in court as Nandipha, to corroborate his claims.
One of Mbanga’s five co-accused, Mlungisi Tsitsi, 37, is Mtwesi’s estranged husband and the alleged mastermind behind her November 12 2015 murder. He was a police officer stationed at the Motherwell police station at the time.
State prosecutor advocate Marius Stander presented Mbanga with various cellphone records and other documents showing that the cellphone number registered to Nandipha had allegedly contacted Mbanga’s alleged co-hitman, Luyanda Nyumka, 37, several times before and after the murder.
Mbanga had previously claimed he did not know Nyumka and had never been in contact with him.
“It is the state’s case that you were communicating with your co-accused telephonically. You’re saying you didn’t,” Stander said to Mbanga.
“That is correct,” Mbanga responded.
Reading out various cellphone numbers, Stander put it to Mbanga that he had, in fact, been in contact with Nyumka and Thembani Rorwana, 34, and that Rorwana had two different numbers saved on his phone under the name Sicelo. One of those numbers was Nandipha’s.
Asked to explain how or why this would be, Mbanga said he bore no knowledge of Rorwana and his former girlfriend knowing each other or why her number would be saved on Rorwana’s phone under his name. He further denied any knowledge of what the pair had discussed during several phone calls highlighted by Stander.
“Who do you think will be able to tell us what those calls were about? [Rorwana] did not testify [so] if not him, then who?” Stander asked.
An almost nonchalant Mbanga responded: “The two people communicating”.
Stander indicated that he wanted to hear from Nandipha and ascertain her version of the story.
Hammering on the point of how cellphone records had linked Mbanga to the other accused, Stander pointed out that a number allegedly belonging to Nyumka had communicated with Mbanga’s girlfriend’s alleged number at least 19 times prior to Mtwesi’s murder.
Mbanga, Nyumka, Rorwana, Tsitsi, Ndiphe Soqokomashe, 48, and Msindisi Bhebhula, 27, have been charged with Mtwesi’s murder and face additional charges of conspiracy to commit murder and the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
They have pleaded not guilty.
It is alleged that Soqokomashe acted as the middleman between Tsitsi and alleged hitmen Mbanga and Nyumka, while Bhebhula was given the role of the getaway driver.
It is alleged that on the morning of November 12 2015, Bhebhula, Nyumka and Mbanga followed Mtwesi from work to her Zwide home, where Nyumka and Mbanga opened fire on her while she was still seated behind the steering wheel of her vehicle.
The trial continues.