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Mpatlanyane murder suspect confessed – says prosecutor

Two men arrested in connection with one of the infamous January Murders in Mpumalanga – that of provincial culture, sport and recreation spokesman Sammy Mpatlanyane – have been denied bail.
The state opposed the bail application of Mozambican Nito Mashava, 28, and co-accused Tanzanian national Omary Issa, 29, during a day-long appearance in the Nelspruit magistrate’s court on Thursday.
State prosecutor, Advocate Isabet Erwee, argued that Issa had an illegal passport, used four names and that his fingerprints were found on the murder weapon and also at Mpatlanyane’s house.
“The fingerprints taken at the house where the murder weapon was stolen and also at Mpatlanyane’s house on the night of the murder also link him to the two cases,” Erwee told the court.
She said the owner of the murder weapon, who is a policeman, had identified Issa during a police identity parade. The gun owner said the thief had put his hand through his bedroom window, taken the police-issue firearm from under a pillow on his bed and then hit him on the head with it.
Erwee said the murder weapon was stolen from a house in Mbombela on December 30 2009 and was found by police at the Mpatlanyane’s home after the murder on January 8 2010.
The owner of the police-issue firearm was able to see the person during the theft because the lights were on inside and outside the house.
She further stated that Home Affairs records showed that the number on Issa’s passport belonged to a Mozambican woman known as Anita Ngwambe.
“The person on the photo of the passport is Issa, but the number was not obtained from Home Affairs in the country but from Mozambique,” said Erwee.
Erwee also stated that police records revealed that Issa was arrested in connection with stealing a cellphone on February 8 2004 after he arrived in the country in mid January that year.
She said the name that Issa gave police during the theft charge was Shafi Meswale.
She said Issa was denied bail because he had no passport and was in the country illegally.
“He was found guilty and convicted to three months imprisonment or a fine of R1 000. The case records of his previous conviction say he was born on December 1 1987, but in the [Mpatlanyane] case, he said he was born on November 1 1985,” said Erwee, who did not indicate whether Issa was able to pay his fine or served his prison term.
During the day-long bail application marked by five-minute recesses, Erwee further told the court that Mashava had signed a confession statement implicating Issa in the murder.
“The confession statement mentions that the two went together to a certain house in Nelspruit (Mbombela) where the murder weapon was stolen. He (Mashava) also mentioned that they were also together at Mpatlanyane’s house at Stonehenge on the night of the murder,” said Erwee. “We have a very strong case against Issa and Mashava. The fingerprints obtained from the murder weapon and the sliding-door at the deceased’s house implicate the accused in the crime. They could skip bail and leave the country as soon as they are released.”
Issa testified that his other names, Shafi Meswale, were clan names and he did not give them to police [in the Mpatlanyane case] because they were not on his passport.
He testified that at he had been making a living selling clothes and running a barbershop in Mbombela for the past six years.
He said members of the Organised Crime Unit (OCU) arrested him at his barbershop, took him to their offices in Mbombela where they brutally assaulted him and forced him to confess to the two cases.
“My left eye is still sore and I sustained injuries on my right upper arm, wrists and right knee. They even denied me proper consultation with a doctor. When [a doctor finally] inspected my injuries, some police officers told me to keep quiet,” testified Issa.
Issa told the court that during the night of the murder he was with his girlfriend in KaNyamazane near Mbombela and only read about Mpatlanyane’s murder in the newspapers.
“Even my rights were not read during the arrest. The signatures on the warning statement taken after my arrest are also not mine,” he said.
Mbombela OCU head and investigating officer in the case, Captain Sunnyboy Moloko, denied that police had beaten Issa to force him to confess.
“He sustained injuries after he fought with police and resisted arrest. In fact, he is the one who showed police the two houses, where the murder weapon was stolen and also where Mpatlanyane was killed,” Moloko said.
Both Mashava and Issa pleaded not guilty to charges of housebreaking and murder. They were remanded in custody until they appear again on May 9.
In January, the National Prosecuting Authority confirmed that the January Murders in Mpumalanga were politically motivated and needed special attention.
The murders include those of Mpatlanyane, Mbombela local municipality speaker Jimmy Mohlala and ANC chief whip in the Ehlanzeni district municipality Johan Ndlovu. All three men were murdered in the month of January since 2009.
The killings have also caught the attention of national police Commissioner Bheki Cele who announced on January 14 that he had appointed a team of 12 highly trained officers from four provinces to get to the bottom of the murders.

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