• Warrant Officer Vukile David Nhlapho testified in the Piet Retief Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
  • The investigating officer told the court there was no cooperation from the accused.
  • Five men are appearing for the alleged murder of brothers, Mgcini and Zenzele Coka. 

The case against four farmers and a farmworker, who are accused of killing the Coka brothers, is a threat to peace and stability.

This was the opinion of the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Vukile David Nhlapho, in the Piet Retief Magistrate’s Court in Mkhondo, Mpumalanga, on Tuesday.

Nhlapho testified in the bail hearing of Danie Malan, Cornelius Greyling, Orchard Klingenberg, Ignitius Steinberg and Senzele Yende.

The men are charged with the murder of brothers, Mgcini and Zenzele Coka, who were gunned down during an altercation on Pampoenkraal Farm on 9 April.

Their appearance in the court caused Church Street, the main street in the town of Mkhondo, to be gridlocked.

“I was there every day to the family and I am concerned about the media coverage – when you look at different media platforms, [the case] was covered broadly,” said Nhlapho.

This has touched people in many different places. To me, your worship, I can only say that this case is a national threat to peace and stability. That’s the only thing I can say. I know only this court can make a decision, but I am putting this to the attention of this court because [of] the situation out there…

READ | I acted in self-defence – Murder-accused farmer admits he shot one of the Coka brothers

Violence

Scores of protesters descended on the town.

Stun grenades and rubber bullets were fired outside the court while proceedings were underway.

Protesters also attacked motorists, mainly those who were white, and were driving in the vicinity.

Arthur Daniels, 86, was under attack on Tuesday afternoon when his vehicle, a hatchback Honda, was stoned.

The visibly distraught man drove through the protesters and into barbed wire as he was trying to flee from the attack.

The five accused face charges of murder, attempted murder, defeating the ends of justice and kidnapping.

Nhlapho testified that the community was emotional about what happened at the farm.

He testified that the community’s outrage also emanated from the fact that there were several other cases in the area, where farmers were accused of assaulting and allegedly killing people.

The officer said people were concerned that there was no justice served in these cases.

The officer told the court that he believed the accused would interfere with witnesses – because they (the witnesses) were employed by some of the accused.

Nhlapho testified that, based on the versions given by witnesses, Mgcini was shot by Klingenberg.

He said, according to witnesses, Mgcini was shot from the back, with the bullet coming out of his chest.

The officer said Zenzele was employed by Greyling and had gone to the farm with him and other farmers. This was in response to a message sent to a WhatsApp group to indicate there was intimidation taking place at the farm.

The officer said seven people were initially at the farm, complaining about seasonal workers being hired, instead of people from the area.

He testified that Zenzele was also shot in the back.

Cooperation

Nhlapho said it is believed that, while Zenzele tried to run away when the commotion ensued, the accused, mainly Malan and Steinberg, allegedly shot him.

Yende is an employee of a farmer, known to be Potgieter. Nhlapho, said that, according to witnesses, he used pepper spray on a man the farmers allegedly detained.

The detained man allegedly assaulted the farmers.

Nhlapho testified that the farmers refused to cooperate with the police officers called to the scene. They were also reluctant to hand in their firearms and give details of what occurred.

Nhlapho said the accused only handed in the firearms at a later stage when it was “convenient”.

He said six cartridges were found at the scene and some witnesses claimed others were removed from the scene by the farmers.

Nhlapho said one of the deceased’s brothers was believed to have been found with a gun, but a witness told him that he saw a farmer throwing it next to the body following the shooting.

The officer said it was unclear whether one of the deceased had a gun.

Investigations continue

Yende was arrested on 14 April, days after his co-accused were detained.

Nhlapho said, on the day police apprehended him, Yende fled and was in possession of a firearm. He jumped fences, but was nabbed after community members assisted.

Nhlapho told the court that, when Yende was arrested, the gun he was believed to have been carrying was not found.

The SAPS dog unit tried to trace the gun, but was unsuccessful.

Following the worker’s arrest, four rounds of ammunition from a rifle were found at his home, the officer testified.

“Human teeth were [also] found at his place. More investigations are taking place in this regard,” he told the court. 

He said Yende had argued during the raid that the teeth belonged to him.

Nhlapho said investigations were likely to be completed within two months.

The officer said ballistic reports delayed the process, but he believed they would be done within that time frame.

Nhlapho believed the five accused were not a flight risk.

Malan’s lawyer put it to the court that the investigating officer’s witnesses did not play open cards with him, and were, therefore, not reliable.

The defence criticised the witnesses for not calling the police during the incident.

“Why didn’t they call the police? They called family members, etc.”

The bail hearing continues on Monday.

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