Ex of sus­pected hit­man may hold key

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Front Page - Devon Koen koend@ti­soblack­

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.

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