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‘I was subjected to an unfair trial’

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Richard Zoniselo Magawu claims he played no part in the killings of DA Danielskuil Councillor Johaanes Baatjies and a family friend, Shuping Jeffrey Nouse.

Zoniselo Richard Magawu. Picture: Soraya Crowie

CONVICTED double murderer Richard Zoniselo Magawu has protested that he was “wrongly and maliciously prosecuted”, claiming that he played no part in the killings of DA Danielskuil councillor Johannes Baatjies and a family friend, Shuping Jeffrey Nouse. 

During sentencing procedures in the Northern Cape High Court on Wednesday, Magawu stated that he was unable to show any remorse “to anyone” as he was not responsible for their deaths. 

The deceased were lured to a business meeting, involving an R800 000 paving tender, on the side of the road between Groenwater and Postmasburg on August 17, 2016.

The following day, when he was supposed to be sworn in as a councillor at Kgatelopele Municipality, Baatjies’ body was discovered lying on the side of the road, with multiple bullet wounds to the head and upper body.

Nouse had been shot in the face and died in hospital a few days later. 

Magawu explained that he never had any personal issues against Baatjies.

“I am very sorry for the loss of the bereaved families as well as their emotional suffering but I cannot accept guilt or be held responsible for these heinous crimes. I am innocent. I knew Baatjies as a good person. I hope that one day the truth shall be revealed,” said Magawu.

He believed that the court was misled with regards to his involvement in the murders. 

“I never harmed anyone. I am convicted today, even though I played no role either in the planning, luring or shooting or killing of the deceased. I was subjected to an unfair trial and I have lost confidence in the criminal justice system of the Northern Cape. I do not recognise any of these proceedings, as I was overlooked by the court. I shall not be silenced by corrupt elements.”

He complained that he was being punished for crimes that he never committed. “I must not be turned into a criminal when I never killed Baatjies. There is no proof that I killed Nouse.” 

Magawu claimed that he was found guilty on the basis of video footage where the owner or employee of the shop was never called to testify. “The time I wanted to call that witness he was said to be overseas.” 

He indicated that while all parties were eager to complete sentencing procedures, he was not happy with the judgment.

“I would like to study it as I only received it on Wednesday and I have picked up some mistakes. I do not accept the judgment. My right to a fair trial and appeal have been encroached.” 

He added that he lost his job as an administrator at the ANC parliamentary constituency office when he was detained.

“Because of this case, I have lost the trust of my friends, family and people who looked up to me. I have lost my job, my reputation and dignity.” 

Magawu stated that he had already spent four years in custody since his arrest in 2016.

“My children, especially my eight-year-old son, need a father figure – someone they can look up to. My eight-year-old will need someone to mould him into a better person. My youngest two children should be receiving a grant because the income of my household has deteriorated and my family’s living standards have dropped. I had to arrange, while incarcerated, that my family undergo counselling, as they were left in a state of shock after hearing the outcome of the judgment.” 

He explained that his previous convictions – which include theft, forgery when he falsely represented himself to be an employee of the South African Defence Force, absconding from community corrections, escaping custody, possession of drugs and fraud – were expunged from the record, as they were committed more than 10 years ago.

“I currently do not have a criminal record. I was a young man when I committed those crimes. I was not thinking responsibly. My achievements speak for themselves – that I am a rehabilitated man and have succeeded in reintegrating myself into the community. Despite having to face many obstacles, I was able to make a positive contribution towards my community and children.” 

Magawu complained that his health was deteriorating while he was behind bars. “I am a diabetic and was diagnosed with low cholesterol by the correctional centre medical doctor.” 

Magawu  said that his spouse and four children were wholly dependent on him. “My mother is old. I am the one who is closest to her, in terms of distance, I am the one who often checks on her. I contribute immensely towards  her medication expenses as she is also a diabetic,” he added.