The state has argued in the High Court sitting in the Palm Ridge that the trio accused of attacking two couples in Rhodes Park in October last year should face the same charges.
Mduduzi Lawrence Mathibela, 32, Admore Ndlovu, 23, and Thabo Nkala, 25, were allegedly part of a gang that accosted and robbed the couples on October 17 while taking a stroll.
According to the charge sheet, the group, armed with a gun and a knife, forced their victims to lie on the ground. They used a knife to cut off the panties of both women and then allegedly raped them.
They forced their partners to undress and pushed them into the lake, where they drowned. The gang stole their clothes, jewellery and cellphones.
They have been charged with robbery with aggravating circumstances, rape and murder.
Only Mathibela’s DNA was found on one of the victims, which tied him to the rape. However, state prosecutor Monde Mbaqa argued the women had been gang raped because, according to their testimonies, different men inserted their fingers into their private parts.
“My lord, by the time accused number 3 [Mathibela] was raping the other victim, he was continuing with what had already taken place before. The rape had taken place while the rest of the group was still there,” he said.
The victims previously testified that all the men had participated in searching them for belongings and ordered their husbands into the lake. Mbaqa said they all should be charged with robbery and murder, despite Ndlovu and Nkala denying being at the crime scene. The state relied heavily on CCTV footage to pin them to the crime.
The footage, which has been played in court, was in black and white and showed a group of men running from the crime scene.
Mbaqa said the court shouldn’t dismiss the CCTV footage as evidence because two police officers who arrested Ndlovu and Nkala told the court that both men positively identified themselves on the footage when they were arrested and also identified the other perpetrators.
“The footage corroborates with what the victims had told the court and also the confession from the accused.”
The three accused have previously told the court that they were severely assaulted and forced into making a confession. They also denied knowing each other or being at Rhodes Park, claims which were dismissed by Mbaqa.
“There were no complaints registered and most importantly one of the police officers who did hour visits at the cells confirmed that no complaints were reported.”
“My lord accused number 1 [Nkala] and accused number 2 [Ndlovu] told the court that they don’t know each other or accused number 3 [Mathibela]. But I nearly fell off my chair during cross-examination when accused number 3 said he knows them and even called Thabo Nkala by name,” he said shaking his head.
He also argued that the accused had known from day one that they had allegedly been assaulted but never came forward with evidence.
“This leaves the state with a conclusion that they were never assaulted, and they were the source of information of the statements, not the police officers, as they have claimed.”
Mbaqa tried to show that the accused were regulars at Rhodes Park. He said one of the state witnesses had worked as a car guard at the park.
Although one of the witnesses had mistakenly identified Nkala as Ndlovu, Mbaqa argued that the witness confirmed that the men were regulars at the park. He also said the witness got confused because Nkala had removed his dreadlocks to intentionally cause confusion.
In his closing statement Mbaqa argued that the DNA was the most damning evidence and could not be disputed.
“He doesn’t deny that DNA was taken from him, all the confession statements, the video footage and the DNA evidence all point to accused number 3 [Mathibela] being one of the last men to leave the scene.”
“There was no foul play in handling the DNA evidence, calling all these witnesses was a waste of time but at least they painted a total picture of how the DNA testing was conducted. So the DNA evidence can’t be excluded,” Mbaqa concluded.
The defence is expected to deliver its closing arguments on Tuesday afternoon.