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Tavern two back in court

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DESPITE a successful conviction for murder that has already seen one person handed a 15-year sentence, two suspects made an appearance in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court yesterday in relation to the fatal stabbing of Geoffrey Japhta in front of a tavern in Ritchie in 2013.

Steven Metsimetsi and Lebogang Moabi returned to the dock yesterday in connection with the death of Japhta four years ago.

The two, along with Hein de Kock, were arrested shortly after Japhta’s murder. De Kock was found guilty and handed a hefty sentence in 2015, while his co-accused were released.

However, with a new witness coming forward and De Kock denying that he killed Japhta, Metsimetsi and Moabi saw charges of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances brought against them, resulting in yesterday’s bail application.

Currently in custody for a different offence, Metsimetsi abandoned his bail application while Moabi was released after being granted bail of R500.

Moabi, 26, yesterday testified in his own bail application, admitting that he had witnessed the stabbing of the deceased but also expressing his intention to plead not guilty on the charges of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

The West End father of four confirmed that he had previously been convicted of possessing an illegal firearm in 2006, for which he received a five-year suspended sentence after the presiding officer apparently showed leniency due to his age at the time.

With regard to the initial murder trial, which resulted in a conviction and 15-year prison sentence for De Kock, Moabi testified yesterday that he had been in police custody, on an unrelated charge of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm (GBH), when the allegations of killing Japhta were made against him.

Despite being warned that his testimony during the bail application could be used against him during trial, Moabi opted to discuss the merits of the case, stating that De Kock had been solely responsible for the 2013 murder.

“The police said that we (De Kock, Metsimetsi and Moabi) were out together when the crime was committed,” Moabi said yesterday. “We were in front of the tavern in Ritchie when we saw the deceased and his friend. De Kock said that they owe him money and when the deceased ran away, he chased after them while the two of us just stood there asking each other what was happening.”

Stabbing

Moabi said that De Kock caught up with Japhta and began stabbing him repeatedly.

“Steven and I pulled him off the deceased while he was still stabbing him. The victim was screaming and someone came out of a nearby shanty. When this witness called De Kock by name, we walked away. The deceased was still alive but could not get up.”

Moabi claimed to know nothing of the robbery charge against him, further stating that he had not seen De Kock take anything from the victim.

He added that they had not stayed on the scene to assist the deceased as they were intoxicated at the time and did not think that the injuries would prove fatal.

The investigating officer, Sergeant Gertrude Steenkamp, was next to take the stand, saying that the State was opposed to bail after there had been some difficulty in enforcing a J50 warrant issued for Moabi’s arrest by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) earlier this year.

According to the IO, a witness claims to have seen the accused burn a bloody T-shirt on the night in question while De Kock still maintains his innocence, claiming that it had been Moagi and Metsimetsi who committed the murder.

If convicted, Moabi could face a similar sentence to that handed to De Kock, a fact that Steenkamp believes makes the accused a flight risk.

However, she conceded that she was not clear on precisely what transpired in the investigation between the murder in 2013 and the rearrest of Moabi as she had taken over the investigation from another officer subsequent to De Kock’s conviction.

It was this absence of insight that saw Moabi being granted bail of R500 after the court ruled that a lack of clarity constituted exceptional circumstances for the schedule six bail application.

“The matter was either withdrawn or removed from the roll and it is not clear why,” said Magistrate Doll Mokoto when giving her judgment. “It is not clear why Moabi was never subpoenaed nor why he had to be re-arrested. There is also no clear reason why the State is opposing bail other than the testimony of a new witness.

“There is no evidence that the applicant has previously failed to appear in court nor that he has interfered with witnesses in the investigation. He has also been up front about the case of assault GBH. Based on the evidence, the applicant will stand trial. Therefore, bail is set at R500.”

The trial will begin in the Northern Cape High Court at the end of July.