Wed, 23 Oct 2019

A state witness in the trial of eight people accused of a string of murders at the infamous Glebelands hostel in Umlazi, told the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Monday about plans to "get rid of the people who were selling hostel beds".

The man testified in camera (behind closed doors) and may not be named. He is the fourth witness to testify in camera, GroundUp reports.

The eight accused face 22 charges, including murder and attempted murder.

One of the accused is former police officer Bhekukwazi Mdweshu and his seven co-accused are Khayelihle Mbuthuma, Vukani Mcombothi, Eugene Hlophe, Mbuyiselwa Mkhize, Ncomekile Ntshangase, Mondli Mthethwa and Bongani Mbhele.

Attempted murder of William Mthembu

The witness told the court that Mdweshu, Mcombothi and a Bonga Hlophe approached him about an attack they were planning at the hostel's block R on August 19, 2014. The intention was to kill a resident, William Mthembu, who they believed was selling space in the hostel to residents.

"They informed me they were thinking of going to attack Block R because they want to get rid of the people who were selling hostel beds. Mdweshu believed that Mthembu was behind the selling of beds. I told them we were not ready for such an attack. I asked them how was it going to be done because we had no weapons. They told me to feel free because Mdweshu was going to organise the guns," said the witness.

Previous testimony described a system of control at Glebelands, allegedly run by Mdweshu, in which residents were forced to pay money to Mdweshu and his colleagues. It appears from the testimony that Mthembu may have been trying to compete with Mdweshu.

Mdweshu has not taken the stand yet and these claims may be challenged.

The witness said he was not part of the attack.

"My concern was the innocent people who were going to get injured during the attack. I was worried about my relatives who stayed in Block R. Mdweshu made it clear that the person they wanted was Mthembu," said the witness.

The witness described various plans to kill Mthembu, but the 2014 attempt failed.

Mthembu was killed in September 12, 2015 at Montclair.

Murder of Siniko Ncayiyana

The witness also described the murder of Siniko Ncayiyana who was killed on March 27, 2014.

The witness placed two of the accused, Hlophe and Mcombothi, at the scene. He also named two further alleged accomplices, including one who was sentenced for an unrelated murder.

"Ncayiyana had just left my room when he was murdered," said the witness.

"We were in my room watching television. Immediately after he left I heard three gunshots. I could not see the direction the gunshots came from. I exited my room and saw four people running. I could see them because there was light."

He named the four people, including Hlophe and Mcombothi.

The witness said he asked the four where were they coming from.

"They told me they were chasing someone."

He said after a while he saw a group of people with the police.

"I saw a person lying down. It was Ncayiyana. He had a bullet in his head," said the witness.

The witness added that the following day one of the four - the one who was found guilty of an unrelated murder - came to him and confessed to killing Ncayiyana. He said it was his revenge because Ncayiyana had killed his brother.

Murder of Nkosinathi Ndovela

The witness also testified about the murder of Nkosinathi Ndovela who was shot dead on July 14, 2015.

The witness implicated Hlophe, Mcombothi and a third man, who is not an accused.

"I was drinking with my friends when I heard gunshots. We were in Block 57. I came out and saw Hlophe, Mcombothi and [the third man] running in our direction, carrying guns. They came to us and told us certain people have been shot at. We went to the scene and saw that Ndovela had been killed," said the witness.

The witness is expected to continue testifying on Tuesday.

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