Killer of Banyana star stuns hearing
THE key state witness in the murder of former Banyana Banyana star Eudy Simelane changed his testimony in the Delmas circuit court yesterday, claiming that he had become a born-again Christian.
Thato Mphiti had already been sentenced to 42 years after pleading guilty to the murder and robbery of Simelane.
He was sentenced to 18 years for murder, 15 for robbery and nine for being an accomplice to rape. The first 10 years of the 15 for robbery will run concurrently. With the 18 years for murder. he will serve an effective 32 years.
As part of his plea bargain he agreed to testify against Khumbulani Magagula, Johannes Mahlangu and Themba Mvubu, who had pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, rape and robbery.
But he shocked the packed courtroom yesterday when he changed his previous testimony implicating the trio in the crimes.
"I took a knife from Mvubu and accused number one [Magagula], two [Mahlangu] and three [Mvubu] reprimanded me and said I must leave her alone, but I did not listen and they left," he told the court.
Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng granted the prosecution's application to declare Mphiti a hostile witness. He had previously testified that Mahlangu had said they should rape Simelane and that Mvubu had ordered that she be killed because she had recognised him.
State Advocate Mashudu Modau asked Mphiti why he had previously given a different testimony.
He said the police had beaten him.
Modau asked why he persisted with the earlier testimony in court though he had a legal representative and an interpreter.
Mphiti said the three had turned themselves in to the police.
Modau praised Mphiti for being a professional liar by claiming he did not know Magagula and Mahlangu.
At the beginning of his testimony he said he knew them.
Asked if he had been offered something to exonerate the three accused, Mphiti said he had found God.
"I am now a born-again Christian. Before I was scared but now the time has come for the truth to come out. These people have done nothing," he said.
Advocate Matlemolla Mohlahlo, who represented Magagula and Mahlangu, said the two had not participated in plans to rob the Banyana Banyana star and they had left Mphiti with Simelane.
The trial continues today.