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Piet Els murder trial: Question of whether accused is former president Jacob Zuma’s son raised in court

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The Piet Els murder trial, involving seven accused who have been charged with murder, robbery and possession of illegal firearms, resumes in the Northern Cape High Court on Wednesday.

The seven accused in the case are Morapeli Rankali, Motlalentwa Qhautse, Lisbeth Ndlala, Oupa Jeffrey Mahomane, Thamba Lawrence Maja, Samson Sam Mbokane and Jabulani Wilson Zuma. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE PIET Els murder trial, involving seven accused who have been charged with murder, robbery and possession of illegal firearms, resumes in the Northern Cape High Court on Wednesday.

The question of whether one of the accused, Jabulani Wilson Zuma, is indeed the biological son of former president Jacob Zuma was raised in court on Tuesday.

Zuma and his six co-accused – Morapeli Rankali, Motlalentwa Qhautse, Lizbeth Ndlala, Oupa Jeffrey Mahomane, Themba Lawrence Maja and Samson Sam Mbokane – are facing charges of murder, robbery and possession of illegal firearms for their alleged involvement in the attack on prominent local businessman Els and his partner on his farm during the early hours of January 24, 2018.

According to Tuesday’s testimony from the medical practitioner who attended to Els after he was admitted to Mediclinic Gariep, the elderly businessman suffered extensive injuries to his body and face, including burn wounds to his leg.

It had been reported that Els was apparently burnt with a hot iron and assaulted during the attack on his farm.

Els succumbed to his injuries in hospital on May 15, 2018.

While Jabulani Wilson Zuma is the spitting image of former president Jacob Zuma, whether he is indeed the son of the former statesman is yet to be confirmed.

Jabulani Wilson Zuma in the Northern Cape High Court. Picture: Soraya Crowie

According to the police officer who arrested Zuma, Lieutenant-Colonel Doggie Magugu, the accused was arrested in KwaZulu-Natal after several of the suspects mentioned that he was involved in the matter.

“Some of the suspects mentioned the name of Zuma. They only referred to Zuma by his surname and not his full name. They said they travelled outside of the Province with Zuma. The suspects further stated that Zuma was the son of the former state president Jacob Zuma,” said Magugu.

“Through the assistance of a cellphone analyst, we were able to trace a number that was registered in the name of Jabulani Zuma. The suspect (Zuma) was from KZN and several residential addresses were given to me to trace him. I managed to trace him to Mtubatuba in Richards Bay. That was where he was arrested on March 16, 2021.

“During his arrest, I managed to speak to an elderly man whom I found on the premises. The elderly man introduced himself to me as the father of Zuma. The accused (Zuma) also confirmed that the man I spoke to was his father. The man was not the former state president Jacob Zuma.”

Magugu added that Zuma on more than one occasion told him that he wanted to reveal the “real truth” in the matter as well as point out the mastermind in the case.

“When we were travelling from KZN and we stopped to refuel our vehicles, the people in the vehicle who were travelling with Zuma indicated to me that the accused wanted to speak to me. I went over to the vehicle that the accused was travelling in, as we were not travelling in the same vehicle. Zuma told me that he wanted his day in court and that he wanted to question the Els brothers. He said he will speak of what happened, also that he will mention names.

“I told him that I am merely the arresting officer and if he wished to make any statements, he should do it in Kimberley. At that stage I had not told him that the deceased had two sons, nor did I hear anyone in my presence give that information to Zuma.”

Magugu said that the second time Zuma had requested to talk to him was during the accused’s bail application.

“On the day of the bail application for Zuma in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court, the accused made a hand gesture that he wanted to speak to me. I followed him into the holding cells where he was accompanied by the court orderlies. I told Zuma that he has a legal representative and that anything he wished to say, he should say through his legal representative. As I walked away, Zuma said he would give me the mastermind behind the incident, who he said was in Lesotho. I did not respond and just walked away from the accused.”

Magugu stated further that another person, who apparently hosted some of the accused at his house in Phuthanang, has since been on the run.

“According to the accused, they are from Mpumalanga and were staying in the location here in Kimberley. Through the cellphone analyst, we found that the house the accused were staying at was on Thabo Modupi Street in Phuthanang. The person who was staying at the house at the time was Johannes Ralihlare. I contacted Ralihlare and we met at the address in Phuthanang. I did not arrest Ralihlare and arranged for a follow-up meeting, which was scheduled to have taken place at the Organised Crime offices. Ralihlare, however, never showed up for the meeting and I was never able to trace him again.

“Upon my return to the house in Phuthanang, I was informed by the people who were occupying the house that he (Ralihlare) had gone back to Lesotho. A warrant of arrest for Ralihlare was issued and circulated to all relevant media houses,” Magugu said.

The trial continues.

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