“We feel very happy now because no innocent person deserves to be killed,” said Sithole’s uncle, John Sithole. Sithole’s aunt, Anna Sithole, said they were grateful to the media for capturing Sithole’s shocking murder. “We have not completely healed but we are thankful for the journalist. We thank him very much because if it was not for him we would still be in the dark. He did a great job,” she said.
Sithole’s murder was captured by news photographer James Oatway and his images published in the Sunday Times caused waves throughout the country.
“At least justice has been served, but they still need to rot in jail,” Sithole’s cousin, Thando Sithole, said.
Sizwe Mngomezulu and Sifundo Mzimela, both 21, were denied bail after pleading not guilty to charges of murder and robbery, and guilty to assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Their lawyer, Vhonani Matshidza, last week told the court the two could not be linked to Sithole’s murder and that it was evident, from photographic evidence, who had committed the crime.
Magistrate Syta Prinsloo said the State would not solely rely on Oatway’s photos, but also on witness accounts. Prinsloo said the State had a strong prima facie (on the face of it) case against the accused. Prinsloo said there was a strong likelihood that the two could evade trial if released on bail. This after Mngomezulu had previously denied any involvement in the incident and Mzimela allegedly trying to escape custody.
Investigating officer Sydney Mhlongo also testified that the State’s witnesses in the case were known to the accused – a factor that influenced Prinsloo’s decision to deny bail. She said the witness could be intimidated by the suspects, while a mother had also come forward raising issues of safety for her son. Prinsloo also pointed out the protest staged outside court during the suspects’ first appearance. “It seemed to have calmed down but it is still a volatile situation. Indeed, the release will disturb and undermine the peace of community,” she said. She also rejected the arguments presented in favour of the accused.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Velekhaya Mgobhozi welcomed the ruling, saying it was happy Prinsloo had agreed with its case for denying bail.
Accused number one, Mthinto Bhengu, had abandoned his bail application while accused number three was identified as a minor and was referred for a preliminary inquiry. The case was postponed to May 27 to determine the forum of the trial.