Two men arrested in connection with one of the infamous January Murders in Mpumalanga – that of provincial culture, sport and recreation spokesman Sammy Mpatlanyane – will apply for bail on Thursday.
Mozambican Nito Mashava, 28, and co-accused Tanzanian national Omary Issa, 29, were unable to apply for bail when they appeared in the Nelspruit magistrate’s court on Tuesday following a day-long court drama that ended up with the case being postponed.
The drama ensued when Mashava, who initially asked to represent himself, decided to apply for legal aid instead, while Issa complained the court didn’t have a ‘proper’ Swahili interpreter.
Issa told the court that the appointed interpreter was speaking a version of Swahili mostly used in the Democratic Republic of Congo while he only understood Tanzanian Swahili.
The two are accused of shooting and killing Mpatlanyane, who was gunned down on January 10, 2010 at his home in Mbombela. At the time, Mpatlanyane’s murder was linked to alleged cover-ups of tender fraud in Mpumalanga’s 2010 stadium.
First accused, Mashava was arrested on April 6 in Mbombela while Issa, a street vendor who sold sweets and manned a public phone, was arrested at his business site in the Mbombela CBD.
The two were not asked to plead on the charges of murder, possession of an illegal firearm and ammunitions and conspiracy to commit murder.
More drama followed when Issa’s defence lawyer Sifiso Mabilane asked the court to give him the contents of his client’s docket because he had no idea how police linked Issa to the murder.
“Right now I don’t know the contents of the case and charges, I ask the court to grant me the whole information so I can understand what links my client to the case because he was just arrested on the street and was not found in possession of anything illegal,” said Mabilane.
During his argument, Mabilane referred to previous court cases in which clients were hurled before court without their lawyers being aware of how police linked them to the respective cases against them.
The court was adjourned for ten minutes, after which the court ordered the state to provide Mabilane with the contents of the docket, with the exception that names of witnesses be removed from the documents.
Mashava and Issa were remanded in custody and the court ruled that a proper Swahili interpreter be made available.
An alternative date of May 9 was also set in case there are further delays during the bail application on Thursday.
Mpumalanga police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Hlathi declined to provide African Eye News Service with information linking the two murder accused to Mpatlanyane’s killing, but said the state had a strong case against the two.
“The investigations are still continuing and we hope other arrests will be made so we can’t discuss the details of this sensitive case,” said Hlathi.
Hlathi added that the two were linked to a wider conspiracy, but declined to elaborate.
Previously, he said Mashava, who was found in possession of an illegal firearm, had been linked to three house robberies and one house breaking. He also confirmed that a police-issue firearm was used to kill Mpatlanyane.
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.