VIDEO: Charges withdrawn in Meyiwa suspect

NOTE: This article first appeared on The Citizen website on November 11, 2014. 

The  NPA has officially withdrawn the charges against Zamokuhle Mbatha, the 25-year-old man accused of killing Senzo Meyiwa.

Mbatha had his second appearance in the Boksburg Magistrates Court on Tuesday morning and the charges of murder and robbery were dropped against him within five minutes.

State prosecutor Gertrude Market requested that Mbatha’s appearance on Tuesday took place in absentia.

It became apparent why when Magistrate Daniel Thulare accepted the State’s request to withdraw the charges.Thulare said there was not enough evidence against Mbatha to carry on with his trial.

Mbatha’s family, who filled two benches in the packed court room, were overjoyed. Lindiwe Mbatha, his sister-in-law, said: “We knew they had the wrong person. He would never do something like this”.

The family left the court in song.

Mbatha will be released from police custody and investigations into Meyiwa’s killing will continue.

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TAC needs millions ASAP

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on November 7, 2014. 

Picture: Supplied by TAC
Picture: Supplied by TAC

The Treatment Action Campaign have embarked on an emergency fundraising drive to counter the R30 million deficit they are facing.

The HIV/Aids activist organisation is urgently in need of financial support via donations to keep them from closing their doors.

Lotti Rutter from TAC said: “We have a R30 million deficit… We are trying to crowd source the money we need” through a current month long fundraising drive.

“So far there has been a great level of support, We are hopeful that will raise enough money,” she added.

TAC has been at the forefront of the fight against HIV/Aids for close to ten years now.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu made a passionate plea for donations for TAC, saying they have been central to restoring hope to the millions of South Africans afflicted by HIV/Aids.

“Aids is not over, it is not over until the evils that drive HIV such as rape and violence against women and children are defeated,” he said.

Rutter said the public support has been overwhelming in the few days that they have embarked on the drive.

Last night a virtual townhall meeting was held by the campaign on social network Twitter under the #SaveTAC hashtag.

The conversation centred around their funding issue as well as the vital role of social activism:

If TAC is unable to get the funds it needs this month, they will be forced to close their doors on December 1, World Aids Day.

Homeless boy finds baby tossed from car

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on November 6, 2014.

A homeless boy in Braamfontein, who thought he had picked up a Checkers plastic bag filled with food and other “nice things” near Wits University, was shocked when he instead discovered the mangled body of a dead baby.

Wits University campus control director Robert Kemp said the body had been dumped from a white Volkswagen Polo driving down Jan Smuts Avenue in Johannesburg late on Tuesday night.

It was particularly cold and wet that night, and the desperate homeless youngster thought he might have found something to help him through it.

“A passing vagrant saw the packet thinking there might be something nice for him in there but then he discovered the deceased baby,” said Kemp.

The young boy immediately looked for help and quickly approached campus control officers at the Nowsell Hall residence.

Warrant Officer Richard Munyai confirmed the incident yesterday.

“A case of concealment of birth has been opened… that is basically [an] abortion,” he explained.

He added that preliminary findings revealed that “it was a stillborn baby in that plastic”.

A police investigation was underway.

Is ANCYL backing #BringBackBhekiCele?

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on November 4, 2014. 

A crime prevention campaign launched by the ANC Youth League Tuesday, doubled up as a platform for the ‘bring back Bheki Cele’ campaign.

Bheki Cele, now deputy minister of agriculture and fisheries, was invited by the ANCYL in his capacity as an ANC national executive committee member. The event, hosted by the youth league, saw ‘Operation Wanya Tsotsi’, a call to reclaim the streeta being launched.

FILE PICTURE: Mourners call for the reinstatement of the country's former police chief Bheki Cele as they gather at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday, 1 November 2014 for the funeral of slain Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa. Picture: Giordano Stolley/SAPA
FILE PICTURE: Mourners call for the reinstatement of the country’s former police chief Bheki Cele as they gather at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday, 1 November 2014 for the funeral of slain Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa. Picture: Giordano Stolley/SAPA

The crowd erupted when Cele, dressed in all black with a signature hat, entered the Vosloorus Civic Centre. A group shouted “bring back Bheki” when a question on how to fight crime was asked.

Cele called on the youth to channel the anger the country has over crime to start fighting it. “We must organise to close and squeeze the space for criminals”.

He added that communities should come together to expose criminals. “You know these people. Criminals like to talk about their loot, their money and their girls but you choose to keep quiet.”

The crime fighting campaign came after the shooting and killing of Bafana Bafana captain and Orlando Pirates goalie, Senzo Meyiwa, last week.

Cele’s attendance was seemingly in line with the call from aggrieved fans who asked for the former police commissioner to be brought back to fight crime. ​The informal campaign was trending on social network Twitter under the hastag #bringbackbhekicele last week:

https://twitter.com/Sgebzzz/status/528062660831485952

Debate Club – Chats about the truth keep me sane

There are few things as freeing, as validating, as anchoring, as sitting in a room filled with young people talking about our lived realities.

Last month some friends and I joined Debate Club, an initiative by the good people at Live Mag. There have only been two “meetings” but so far so great. It happens once a month at on the last Tuesday of that month at the Bannister Hotel in Braamfontein.


The first time we went, we discussed being African – what it means or what it should mean. We had a robust discussion about we can and should be doing to uphold certain traditions, how others should move on with the times and what kind of things “led us astray” if you will. Some of my favourite quotes from the floor that night:

  • “Townships are dormitories for cheap labour” – a comment on the ill notion of glorifying living in townships.
  • “We just don’t know ourselves.”
  • “We’re not living in a context that is made for Africanism.”

Last week at the second meeting, the proverbial heat in the kitchen got turned up a few notches as we embarked on a topic that was bound to be explosive – race. In particular race in South Africa in relation to the so called “rainbow nation”.

To try to sum up what people said would be reductive, luckily I was tweeting like a mad woman. Will embed a few favourites to give a brief peek into what went down:

It was a night for the “angry black” – a night to speak our minds with reckless abandon that brimmed with obvious frustration. It was a night to say we are here, this is what we see and we don’t like it.

It was so necessary, so enlightening and equally depressing. I’m glad that I’ve found this space – I look forward to many more nights like the ones we’ve already had.

Engineer didn’t inspect 84 ton Meyersdal structure

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 30, 2014. 

A commission of inquiry into a structure that collapsed at an estate in Meyersdal has heard that the slab that fell, weighed 84 tonnes.

Seven men died and eight more were injured when the slab fell on them.

On Thursday, the second day of the Meyersdal Structural Collapse Incident Inquiry faced another hostile witness, as the engineer refuses to answer the commission’s questions.

Ranjan Galal, the engineer of the structure, dodged numerous questions asked by presiding officer, Phumudzo Maphaha. This was much like contractor, Errol Romburgh did on Wednesday.

After a barrage of questions, Galal cracked when Maphaha put it to him that his design and not the construction work, was responsible for the collapse.

“It was not my design that caused the collapse,” said Galal. Even though earlier in his testimony he had said that the design shown on TV screens during inquiry proceedings, was not his but an architect’s. Galal changed his tune when Maphaha said they had been on the site together after the collapse.

Maphaha insinuated that the 84 ton slab was supported by columns that could not support that weight. Along with this he said those weak pillars were built atop “no foundation, they were on a retaining wall”.

The commission adjourned after all the commission’s witness appeared within two days. Maphaha will be compiling a report and making recommendations to the director of public prosecution.

Alberton house contractor keeps mum at commission of inquiry

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 29, 2014.

Question after question posed by a commission sitting in Tshwane on Wednesday into the collapsed building near Alberton which left seven people killed and nine injured, were ignored by the contractor of the Meyersdal Eco Estate when questioned.

FILE PICTURE: Paramedics on the scene in Meyersdal Eco Estate, Alberton in the south of Johannesburg on 18 August 2014 after a building collapsed. Picture Alberton Record/CNS
FILE PICTURE: Paramedics on the scene in Meyersdal Eco Estate, Alberton in the south of Johannesburg on 18 August 2014 after a building collapsed. Picture Alberton Record/CNS

Errol Romburgh, a member of Romicon, the construction company that was building the luxury house at the estate when part of it collapsed, refused to answer questions posed by presiding officer, Phumudzo Maphaha.

This morning the comission heard Romburgh say he was following his legal advice to use his legal right to “not answer any incriminating questions”.

The Meyersdal Structural Collapse Incident Inquiry has been set up to further investigate the collapse that happened on August 18.

Despite Romburgh’s refusal, Maphaha continued to put questions to him about his workers and health and safety issues on site. He concluded that “recommendations will be made to the National Prosecuting Authority,” following Romburgh’s failure to comply by remaining silent.


Alberton house collapse construction worker can’t remember what happened

Several men have been injured, eight are presumed to be dead and two are still missing beneath the rubble of collapse building in Alberton, Johannesburg South. Picture: ER24 Flickr
Several men have been injured, eight are presumed to be dead and two are still missing beneath the rubble of collapse building in Alberton, Johannesburg South. Picture: ER24 Flickr

Maphaha said the purpose was particularly to investigate the cause of the collapse that led to the deaths and injuries.

Prior to Romburgh three workers gave their testimony to the commission. They were all on site when the building collapsed but could not remember how the structure came tumbling down, only waking up later in hospital.

Collins Mohale said he was given a hard hat, boots, gloves and overall but never shown how to use them. “Not everyone wore the protective clothes,” he added.

Second witness, Patrick Moremi said in the eight years he had worked for Romicon, he had undergone no health and saftey training or medical check-ups.

Another witness and worker who survived the collapse, Sandile Mabuza gave similar testimony.

The proceedings continue.

“I’m not guilty” – N12 crash truck driver

NOTE: This article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 22, 2014.

Truck driver Isaac Maruding attempts to cover his head during a court adjournment of his bail application at the Palm Ridge Magistrate's court, 22 October 2014. Maruding is appearing on charges of culpable homicide. Picture: Refilwe Modise
Truck driver Isaac Maruding attempts to cover his head during a court adjournment of his bail application at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s court, 22 October 2014. Maruding is appearing on charges of culpable homicide. Picture: Refilwe Modise

The driver behind the wheel of the truck which caused last week’s horror accident on the N12 highway is planning to plead not guilty.

Appearing for the second time at the Palm Ridge Magistrates Court on Wednesday, Isaac Wade Maruding said in an affidavit that he was not responsible for the crash.

Maruding, driving a truck owned by Benusi Cargo Carriers, plowed through numerous vehicles on the highway when the truck’s brakes allegedly failed on October 14.

The accident left four people dead, seven critically injured and 19 with minor injuries.

In the same affidavit, Maruding apologised to those injured and their families.

Mokhele Salemane, Maruding’s new legal representative, proposed his client br granted R5 000 bail on the grounds that by being detained he was losing income and could not support his family of three – two children and his wife.

It was revealed to the court today that along with Maruding’s previous convictions for culpable homicide and reckless and negligent driving, he had another culpable homicide charge on his record.

Phokungwane said Maruding was aquitted of culpable homicide in 1996. He was a taxi driver at the time.


N12 crash driver a flight risk

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State witness and investigating officer Joas Pheagne Phokungwane said investigations were underway on the vehicle and would be concluded next week.

Phokungwane and state prosecutor John Ntuli said releasing Maruding on bail would “endanger the public at large”.

Ntuli used this as another reason for Maruding not to get bail.

Magistrate Samuel Hlubi postponed his judgment to October 27.

“No bail is set at this stage and the accused will remain in custody,” he said.The truck was impounded by police.

N12 Crash: Defence lawyers drop truck driver

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 16, 2014. 

The driver of the truck that ploughed into close to 50 cars on the N12 on the East Rand on Tuesday, was left in the lurch by his legal representatives at Palm Ridge Magistrates’ Court on Thursday afternoon.

N12 crash truck driver Isaac Maruding in the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court. Pic: Tracy Lee Stark.
N12 crash truck driver Isaac Maruding in the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court. Pic: Tracy Lee Stark.

Truck driver Isaac Maruding had his first appearance in court on Thursday. State attorney, John Ntuli applied for a postponement of the case to investigate further.

Maruding, facing four counts of culpable homicide and one count of reckless and negligent driving, covered his face throughout proceedings.  His representatives, advocate Gerhard Louw and Deon van Staden initially opposed the postponement, wanting to proceed with Maruding’s bail application.

When Magistrate Samuel Hlubi denied the defences application,  Louw asked to be withdrawn as his client’s representative. “We don’t have instruction to proceed with this case beyond today,” Louw said.

Maruding has a previous conviction for both culpable homicide and reckless and negligent driving, and served time in prison for both, the court heard.

The state asked for more time to properly compile information on those who died in the crash, Ntuli saying “additional charges” may be added in future.

Hlubi postponed the matter until October 22, to give both the state and Maruding the time they need.

Maruding now has to find alternative legal representation after the company appointed lawyers dumped him on Thursday.

Motsoaledi: No SA ebola threat

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 9, 2014. 

Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi said he is tired of the unnecessary “media frenzy” around the possible outbreak of Ebola in the country.

Motsoaledi was speaking in Kempton Park, after a meeting with various stakeholders, who will be sending aid to West African countries affected by the deadly virus.

So far all 14 people who have been tested for the virus have been negative. “We were testing them to settle nerves,” said Motsoaledi. He added that too much panic was being created in the media every time someone with a fever or bleeding was admitted to hospital.

Professor Janusz Paweska, who has been part of a team deployed to assist medically in West Africa, explained why South Africa is not a high risk area at the moment.

“There is no habit of eating pets (birds, bats etc) in South Africa.”

He said the extreme hunger in some of the affected countries forced people to hunt bats and other wildlife just to survive.

“People are hungry out there”.