Shocking details about the last moments of murdered Danielskuil DA councillor, Johannes Baatjies, emerged in the Northern Cape High Court on Wednesday, when the “204 witness” in the case took the witness stand.
The five men accused of the kidnapping and murder of Baatjies and a family friend, Jeffrey Nouse, appeared in court on Wednesday.
The five accused are Richard Hasane, Tshame Frank Baxane, Zonizelo Richard Magawu, Thompson Mncedisi Mphondomisa and Matthews Legodu.
Baatjies was killed on August 17, 2016 after being kidnapped, forced into the boot of a car and shot multiple times in the head and body while he tried to escape from the moving vehicle; a day before he was to be sworn in as a councillor at Kgatelopele Municipality.
Nouse was shot in the face with a 9mm pistol on the same day and was found seriously injured inside a Ford Ranger along the side of the road. He was taken to Kimberley’s Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital and died on August 23, 2016.
The State’s “section 204 witness”, Tiro Lekgotla, was on Wednesday called by the State prosecutor, Advocate Hannes Cloete.
Lekgotla started off his testimony by saying that he had spoken to Mphondomisa (whom he referred to as Charlie) in July, 2016, while he (Charlie) was putting up election posters for his “bra” who was running as an ANC councillor.
Photos of these ANC election posters, depicting one of the accused, Zonizelo “Zet” Richard Magawu, were shown in court.
Lekgotla stated that Charlie had phoned him on August 16 and indicated to him that he needed assistance with transport from Danielskuil to Postmasburg the next day, as the had to “do a deal”.
“When I asked what the deal was about, Charlie just said ‘you ask too much’. I thought it was something against the law, why would you want transport to come from Kuruman, which is 80 kilometres from Danielskuil, to go to Postmasburg. However, I told him that I didn’t have a car at the moment and that I was borrowing a car. I said I would try to assist.
“Later, during the day, I met with “Bonks” (accused Richard Hasane) and told him there were people who requested transport between Danielskuil and Postmasburg. Later, Charlie said he would give R20 000 for the transport. I was surprised and asked him why so much money. He said that they had ‘a deal’ with a person from the DA.”
Lekgotla further testified that Charlie explained that his “bra” (friend) Zet was supposed to become a councillor but that was not happening any more as the DA “received more seats in the municipality than the ANC”.
“Zet told me that ‘tomorrow, that DA person will be sworn in meaning there will be no jobs available for us anymore’. I said ‘it’s difficult’ and Zet replied by saying that we will only be required to transport and that he and Charlie would do the work.
“I thought – this thing is illegal, maybe someone might get killed or assaulted. I decided to be part of it, as I would only be providing transport. I spoke to Bonks and reported what was said. We agreed to assist with transport and to use his wife’s Jetta.
“On August 17, the two of us went to Danielskuil to fetch Charlie and them. While still in Kuruman, we phoned Charlie and Zet answered and he told us to come to Danielskuil. We left for Danielskuil after putting diesel to the value of R650 in the Jetta. Upon arrival, we phoned Zet who told us to come to a tuck shop in the township. Zet and Frank (accused Tshame Frank Baxane) arrived and got in to the car. It was the first time I met either of them but Zet was the man I had seen on ANC posters previously. I also recognised his voice from our previous conversations,” Lekgotla testified.
“Zet spoke to me and said that he was not going with to Postmasburg any more as the ‘top dogs’ told him to stay behind as he would be the first suspect if anything goes wrong. He then got in the vehicle he arrived in and drove off.
“Frank said we should wait for Charlie at the T-junction. After a while, Charlie arrived and came to the window of the Jetta, where he handed a firearm (a 9 mm pistol in camouflage holster) to Frank. He went back to the vehicle he arrived in and drove off. He then came back with Zet, who was driving. Charlie got into the Jetta, while Zet drove off. The four of us – me (driving), Bonks in the front passenger seat and Frank and Charlie at the back – drove towards Postmasburg.”
Lekgotla continued by stating that when they reached Postmasburg, Charlie told him to enter the town.
“While driving, Frank said ‘there is the bakkie’ (a Ford Ranger). I saw the vehicle, with people standing there. Frank said ‘let us get off here and do our thing’ to which Charlie replied ‘I told you, you are drunk – don’t you see there are people?’.
“We drove past the Ford Ranger and after urinating at the cemetery, a black Nokia phone rang and Frank said ‘hier bel hy nou” (it is him calling). I was told by Charlie to take the phone and give the caller directions to the old school yard on the road leading to Griekwastad. The caller said that he was on his way.
“The person arrived then parked next to the Jetta. The driver, a short man (Baatjies) got out. Charlie instructed Bonks and myself to get out and greet the man. A taller man (Nouse) also got out, he had a file in his hand. Bonks and I were standing with the two, while Charlie and Frank were inside the Jetta.
“I then saw that Charlie was pointing a firearm at the tall man, while approaching him from the back and then I heard a shot go off. After the shot was fired I ran towards the Jetta, I lost my mind for a few minutes. When I came to my senses I saw the tall guy on the ground. I looked around to see Charlie and Frank catching up to the short guy, who was running. Charlie shouted ‘bring the car’.
“Bonks and I got in the car and drove in their direction. When we got there the short guy was lying on the ground, defenceless, being held down by Charlie and Frank. Charlie instructed me to open the boot of the Jetta, which I did and they put the man inside. He did not say anything, but was breathing heavily. All four of us got in the car and, with Bonks driving, we drove off, in the direction of Danielskuil/Kimberley.
“I heard the man in the boot starting to scream, while kicking and hitting the boot from inside. Charlie and Frank told him to keep quiet. Frank asked Charlie why he did not ‘just shoot the other one’ and Charlie explained that the firearm had jammed. Frank told him to take out the magazine and try it again.
“While Charlie was busy with the firearm, Frank said that the man had opened the boot and told Charlie to shoot the man. Charlie dropped the backseat and I heard a shot go off … and then another one. I looked back and saw Charlie was up to his shoulders inside the boot. Frank then said ‘he fell out the boot’. Charlie told Bonks to make a U-turn. He did that and we saw the man was lying in the road. I got out with Frank and Charlie and they dragged the body down a slope.”
Lekgotla stated that he had then said to Bonks “let’s drive”. “Bonks asked me if we were just going to leave the two men there to which I replied ‘they are men, they can sort themselves out’,”
Lekgotla added that he and Bonks then drove off in the direction of Postmasburg.
Lekgotla is expected to continue with his testimony when the matter, being heard by Northern Cape High Court Judge President Pule Tlaletsi, continues on Thursday.