One of the men accused of the double murder and rape in Rhodes Park on Tuesday maintained his innocence as he took the stand in the High Court sitting at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court.
Thabo Nkala, an illegal immigrant from Zimbabwe told the court that he was assaulted and forced into making a confession. He also denied knowing his co-accused Edmore Ndlovu, 23, and Mduduzi Lawrence Mathibela, 32.
The 25-year-old stuck to his story even though Judge Papi Masopa, during a trial within a trial, dismissed his claims of being assaulted.
State prosecutor Monde Mbaqa cross examined Nkala about the day he was arrested and also questioned why Nkala denied that his street name is Rasta, when it appeared to fit with the fact that he had dreadlocks at the time of his arrest, which he has since cut off.
“I cut my dreads because of prison conditions and couldn’t keep them clean. I always use Thabo and those who call me Rasta are people who don’t know me, but usually my customers use that name because I have a small stall on the street where I sell cigarettes, boiled eggs and sweets,” Nkala said.
Police officers who testified concerning Nkala’s arrest told the court that they found him standing however, Nkala disputed their claims and said he was selling at his store when he was arrested.
“Mr Nkala, but you never told this court that you were arrested while selling at your stall,’ Mbaqa said.
“I said I was standing but I was standing while selling at the same time,” he replied.
Mbaqa asked him if he had been to Rhodes Park since he came in the country in 2007. Nkala denied having been to the park until he was taken there by police on two occasions.
Mbaqa continued to attack Nkala’s testimony by referring to the statement he gave to police which refers to another crime the accused allegedly committed.
During the trial within a trial Nkala said police officers gave him a one and a half pages with information he had to memorise and then narrate to the officer who would be taking his statement.
“On the statement you gave to the police, you start by telling officer Mkwebula that on August 15 you, Mdu, Small, Jeje, Stanley, Big show and Cosmo robbed three African men at the park and you got R400 after that.
“But why would police want to frame you for a case which bears no relevance to what happened on 17 October, it doesn’t make sense,” Mpanza said.
Nkala replied: “I think the police wanted to create an impression that I’m a frequent robber at Rhodes Park.”
The lawyer continued: “You must have a sharp memory Mr Nkala, you managed to make a statement with people’s names and gave details of cellphones with descriptions and, yet you say you had one night to memorise all of this information.”
“Yes, I was under pressure and had no choice but to make sure I remember everything,” Nkala replied, slightly biting his lower lip.
Nkala who was wearing a white long sleeve shirt with blue jeans and black shiny boots started taking deep breaths and long pauses when he was asked why he never reported the assault to the officers.
“Like I said, I was scared and felt like all police officers will attack me. I didn’t trust anyone.”
Mbaqa asked Nkala if he remembered that officer Nonkululeko Mkwebula had told the court that she prayed for him after he was done giving his statement and Nkala said he recalled the day and also didn’t dispute that a prayer had taken place.
“So Mr Nkala you also failed to tell a woman who prayed for you that you were assaulted, did that woman also look threatening to you,” Mbaqa asked.
“She wasn’t praying for me, she was just praying and I couldn’t object because I was waiting for the police who brought me to come and fetch me,” he replied.
Nkala maintained that he reported the assault to two different attorneys who were representing him at the lower courts and one of them told him he would explain everything during trial.
At the end if his cross examination, Mbaqa tried to get Nkala to confess but Nkala did not change his story.
“It is never too late to tell the truth, you can be forgiven,” Mbaqa said
Nkala replied: “I just told the truth.”
The matter was adjourned to Wednesday where Ndlovu is expected to take a stand.
– African News Agency