Witness list leaked, more intimidation in Free State murder trial

The High Court in Bloemfontein. Picture: Bloemfontein Courant

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is expected to testify today on whether he received bribes during his dealing with the murdered Louis Siemens.

A day after it was revealed that Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi would be called upon to testify at the murder trial of a Bloemfontein businessperson, the case has taken on another twist.

Another witness in the murder trial of Louis Siemens yesterday alleged he had received numerous threats on his life in the wake of his testimony.

Former Grootvlei prison head and Mangaung private prison adviser Tatolo Setlai has been giving evidence at the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein since Tuesday.

Setlai, 65, who also headed security at Grootvlei, addressed Judge Pitso Molitsoane as proceedings got under way, not only on intimidation allegations, but also his concerns regarding the level of security inside courtroom B.

Setlai said the accused were interacting with members of the public in the packed gallery during adjournments and that he had observed the exchange of parcels.

Molitsoane noted the concerns and asked those who had been threatened to report to the investigating officer so that the allegations could be investigated.

Both Molitsoane and prosecutor Johan de Nysschen warned against the intimidation of witnesses, saying a former waiter at Annie’s Country Kitchen, Ohuliseng Selemela, 41, had alleged he had also been threatened while giving testimony.

De Nysschen said intimidation of witnesses carried a possible life sentence.

During the pre-trial phase, accused No 1, Stanley Bakili, was alleged to have sent the state’s key witness and confessed killer, Xolisile “Botha” Mbebetho, a letter, between July and August 2019, from the Grootvlei prison. In this handwritten letter Bakili allegedly threatened the lives of Mbebetho’s girlfriend and child should he continue with his testimony.

As a result, Bakili is facing an additional charge of obstructing or defeating the ends of justice.

Siemens was shot and killed on May 10, 2018, in the basement parking area of Preller Square shopping complex in Bloemfontein.

It is alleged he was paying bribes to government officials through Bakili to have CityMed Day Hospital’s bed licence amended to allow for more beds, when the business partnership soured.

Bakili is charged alongside Molebatsi Mogoera, Kagiso Chabane, Mojalefa Jali Molusi, Moeketsi Lesia, Clive Tshivenga Karabo Tau and Sizwe Mpati.

Setlai, who described himself as accused No 1 Stanley Bakili’s guardian, testified about various meetings that took place at the Windmill Casino between some of the accused in the days preceding Siemens’ murder. One of these “gatherings” took place on the eve of the murder, as evidenced by CCTV footage.

It also emerged yesterday that the list of witnesses had been leaked on social media.

De Nysschen believed the witness list had been leaked partly to intimidate state witnesses. Authorities are investigating.

Meanwhile, Motsoaledi is expected to give testimony today on whether he received bribes from mastermind Bakili during his dealings with Siemens. Motsoaledi was the minister of health at the time.

Both he and former Free State health MEC Benny Molokoane have been implicated during the trial.

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