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‘There’s not an iota of evidence linking Plaatjies to the murder of Mr Roets’

Case against Plaatjies based on ‘media hype and sensationalism’

Lawyer for Fort Hare accused argues there is no evidence linking him to murders

Isaac Plaatjies in the Dimbaza magistrate’s court on Wednesday.
Isaac Plaatjies in the Dimbaza magistrate’s court on Wednesday.
Image: ZIYANDA ZWENI

Lawyers for Isaac Plaatjies, the University of Fort Hare investigations and vetting director in the dock for the murders of two colleagues, say the case against him is based on media hype and sensationalism, and have called for him to be released on bail.

But the state has labelled Plaatjies a dangerous man who must be denied bail, saying if released he would interfere with the investigations.

These closing arguments were heard in the Dimbaza magistrate’s court on Thursday before magistrate Zwelethu Ngetu.

State prosecutor advocate Nceba Ntelwa argued that Plaatjies, 56, who was arrested on November 17, was the source of the hit list of 13 names including that of vice-chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu, his deputy Professor Renuka Vittal, and a photo of the bullet-riddled car belonging to slain Buffalo City Metro senior official Nceba Ncunyana.

The state alleges Plaatjies was involved in the murders of Buhlungu’s bodyguard, Mboneli Vesele, who was gunned down in January 2023, and UFH fleet manager Petrus Roets, who died in a hail of bullets in 2022.

Advocate Danie Dorfling SC, for Plaatjies, argued that the state’s case against Plaatjies was non-existent.

Dorfling said it was improbable that Plaatjies would defeat his own work investigating crimes at the university by involving himself in the manner the state claims.

“If one looks at the inside of this court, a few words come to mind – media hype, publicity and sensationalism is what this case is about ...

“There’s not an iota of evidence linking Plaatjies to the murder of Mr Roets.

“The state says look at how Roets was killed, Vesele was killed in a similar way – no more than that.

“Then there’s reference to the death of Mr Ncunyana in the opposing affidavit ... there’s absolutely no link to Plaatjies’ involvement ...

“It is the state’s case that Plaatjies is the man who designed the hit list ... it is not only improbable in the extreme, it is preposterous to suggest that inference can be drawn.

“The reason is clear; no person in his right mind would put his name on the hit list.

“Plaatjies’ name is on that hit list. His PA’s name is on that hit list. The vice-chancellor, whose interest he protects, is on that list.”

Dorfling said they challenged the lawfulness of the state’s position on Plaatjies’ cellphone records.

There was no authority for the search and seizure warrant authorised in Dikeni to be executed in East London where Plaatjies was arrested.

“The strength of the state case is non-existent because it relies on evidence that becomes inadmissible ...

“It is alleged that he had a hit list on his phone ... this is his investigation.

“He is on the task team investigating this. He is not the source of that hit list.

“It’s a document available to that investigative team. It’s not strange at all that Plaatjies would have it...”

Plaatjies said he could afford bail of R50,000.

Plaatjies is the 10th accused in the dock, joining former UFH chief transport officer Bongani Peter, retired driver supervisor Wanini Khuza, former UFH SRC member and businessman Sicelo Mbulawa as well as Mthobisi Khanyile, Mthobisi Dlamini, suspended police officer Lindokuhle Manjati and his wife, Pelisa Nkonyeni, Manjati’s cousin and taxi boss Zimele Chiliza and Thamsanqa Mgwetyana.

“Evidence by the investigating officer painted a picture that we are dealing with a syndicate here,” Ntelwa said.

“The applicant is a source of that list because his phone had all these pictures and they were sent to accused 9 [Mgwetyana], and that phone belongs to the university, not him.

“He was arrested with that phone.”

Ngetu will make his bail judgment on Monday. – DispatchLIVE

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