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Judgment in DA councillor murder trial to continue

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Johannes Baatjies was killed in August 2016.

JUDGMENT in the trial of the five men accused of kidnapping and murdering DA councillor Johannes Baatjies and a family friend, Jeffrey Nouse, will continue in the Northern Cape High Court on Tuesday

The accused – Richard Hasane, Tshame Frank Baxane, Zoniselo Richard Magawu, Thompson Mncedisi Mphondomisa and Matthews Legodu – are also standing trial for the illegal possession of a .9mm firearm and ammunition.  

Nouse accompanied Baatjies to a business proposal meeting a day before he was to be sworn in as a councillor at Kgatelopele Municipality, following the local government elections, on August 18, 2016. 

They were allegedly lured by the accused to the meeting – apparently to discuss an R800 000 paving tender- on the side of the road between Groenwater and Postmasburg on August 17.

The following day, Baatjies’ body was discovered lying on the side of the road, with bullet wounds to the head, upper body and forehead. Nouse was found shot in the face in the passenger seat of a bakkie. He died in hospital on August 23, 2016.

In summary of his judgment, Northern Cape High Court Judge President Pule Tlaletsi recalled on Monday how Lieutenant-Colonel Dolf Lourens from the Hawks’ organised crime unit had inspected the crime scene, where a Ford Ranger bakkie was found in an open piece of veld near a school in Postmasburg on August 18, 2016. 

“He (Lourens) concluded that the motive could not have been robbery as the cellphones inside the car were not taken,” said Tlaletsi.

He added that Lourens discovered a message on Baatjies’ cellphone that was sent on August 17, 2016 from a possible suspect. 

“The message read ‘Mr Baatjies, look the job is R800 000, you must give a quote and I must get 10 percent. It’s between me and you. Please come alone. It can’t be revealed to anyone. I could lose the job. Meet at Kolomelo hub at 18h00’.”

Tlatletsi indicated that Lourens traced the sender of the message to one of the accused – Magawu.

“The number was active on WhatsApp on the morning of August 16 and he recognised the photo that appeared on the contact number to be that of Magawu, who was known to him from a previous investigation in an unrelated matter.”  

He stated that upon investigation, nothing of significance could be found during the forensic testing done on the Ford Ranger and a Toyota Avanza that was allegedly used in the commission of the crime.  

“Lourens visited the crime scene and found a patch on the ground that appeared to be blood. He scratched the patch and found a 9mm projectile.” 

Tlatletsi added that following his arrest, Magawu had informed Lourens that he had lost his Samsung cellphone after the local government elections. 

“Magawu indicated that he had assisted a state witness, Boitumelo Kaleche, when he went to buy a new SIM card, to transport a music system and amplifier that he had purchased at the shop. 

“He stayed at Boitumelo’s place and arrived home late at around 12.53am and his spouse opened the door for him. 

“He stated that he was making use of a Mobicell after losing his Samsung cellphone that had been taken out of his pocket. He indicated that his spare phone, a Nokia handset, was stolen out of the Avanza that belonged to Legodu, which he had been driving during the elections. 

“Magawu claimed to have only heard about the news of Baatjies’ death when it was announced by the Kgatelopele municipal manager. He denied any involvement in the murder. He offered to assist in tracking down the offenders in the investigation.” 

Tlaletsi pointed out that Magawu was the branch secretary of the ANC in Danielskuil, as well as an administrator at the ANC offices. 

“At the time, Magawu was an ANC candidate contesting Ward 2 during the local government elections. Co-accused Paulus Mgcera was also a candidate and councillor who was contesting to be mayor, in the event that the ANC won majority control of the municipality.” 

Charges against Mgcera were withdrawn, following the death of a key witness.

Tlaletsi noted that Magawu and Mphondomisa were both ANC volunteers. 

Legodu is a member of the ANC regional committee and a businessman. 

Tlaletsi said that Lourens discovered that the serial numbers of the SIM cards that were purchased by Magawu followed in a chronological order. 

“The cellphone records on August 17, 2016 were tracked from Kuruman, Danielskuil, Postmasburg and back to Danielskuil, Groenwater and Kuruman. One of the calls was also traced to Baatjies’ cellphone number.” 

Tlaletsi stated that according to a section 204 witness, Mphondomisa was supposed to be paid R20 000 for his involvement in the crime,  where an e-wallet payment of R1 000 was made to him by a co-accused. 

“Upon their arrest, Mphondomisa and Legodu denied any involvement in the case. Lourens drove with Hasane to Hotazel to inspect a Jetta sedan, which was allegedly used during the commission of the crime, that belonged to his girlfriend.” 

He added that Lourens instructed that the carpet of the boot of the car be sent for forensic testing. 

“Swabs that were sent to the laboratory did not produce any positive results. The car had been taken to the car wash in Kuruman.”

Tlaletsi added that cellphone records of Legodu were traced to Postmasburg and Groenwater on the day of the murder. 

“Baxane was employed at Idwala mine. He claimed to have lost his phone three months ago although he was seen with a cellphone at the time of his arrest.”