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Up to 76 witnesses to testify in Mpatlanyane murder trial

At least 76 witnesses are expected testify during the trial against three foreign nationals accused of killing Mpumalanga culture, sports and recreation spokesman Sammy Mpatlanyane.
The accused, Mozambican national Nito Mashava, 28, and Tanzanian national Omary Issa, 29, and Democratic Republic of Congo national Tupac ‘Abu’ Ntumba, 25, appeared in the Nelspruit magistrate’s court on Wednesday.
Magistrate Eddie Hall told the three accused that 76 witnesses would testify during the trial between February 20 and March 9 2012.
“The High Court has announced the trial dates… For your information, the state has 76 witnesses in the case,” said Hall.
The accused, who were accompanied by fully armed members of Tactical Response Team, have not yet been asked to plead to charges of murder, possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition, conspiracy to commit murder, house breaking with an intent to murder and house breaking with an intent to commit robbery.
First accused, Mashava, was arrested on April 6 in Mbombela while the second suspect Issa, who is a street vendor who sold sweets and manned a public phone, was arrested at his business site in the Mbombela CBD on April 7.
The third suspect, Ntumba, was arrested on July 3 at Pienaar and was shot in both legs during his arrest.
Mpumalanga police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Hlathi told African Eye News Service that Ntumba had two warrants of arrest against him before police nabbed him.
“Preliminary investigation has proved that Ntumba had absconded on his court appearance on two charges of dealing in drugs and possession of explosives,” said Hlathi.
During the trio’s appearance on Wednesday, Hall told Ntumba that he would appear separately on December 1 to explain why he skipped in the drug dealing and possession of explosives cases.
Mpatlanyane 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.
During Mashava and Issa’s bail application police investigator and member of the organised crime unit Captain Sunnyboy Moloko told the court that the police had records to prove that meetings were held in which eight people planned the murder.
Moloko also said that in the eight people there are two South Africans who are now at large.
Mpatlanyane’s murder is one of Mpumalanga’s infamous “January Murders”.
The National Prosecuting Authority has confirmed that the January Murders 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.
One of the suspects in Ndlovu’s murder, Life Khoza, was sentenced to 20 years for murder and 15 years for armed robbery on Tuesday.
The sentences will run concurrently.

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