Bernadette Wicks
Senior court reporter
2 minute read
30 Nov 2021
3:34 pm

Babita Deokaran murder: Defence tears into state’s ‘non-existent’ case

Bernadette Wicks

Peter Wilkins SC – who represents all six accused – described the state's case as 'weak'.

Six suspects appear for an earlier bail application at the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on 13 September 2021. They are on trial for the murder of whistleblower Babita Deokaran. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Lawyers representing the six men accused of killing whistleblower Babita Deokaran have laid into the team investigating the case, insisting it was hellbent on getting their clients to confess to the crime.

“We respectively submit it would appear from the facts of this case as we have at our disposal that [investigating officer] Captain [Percy] Chauke and the members of the investigating team were more interested in obtaining confessions than following the evidence and obtaining objective evidence that would assist them in solving this crime,” defence advocate Peter Wilkins SC charged in the Johannesburg Regional Court on Tuesday – which would have been Deokaran’s 53rd birthday – as closing arguments on the accused’s bail bid kicked off.

The Gauteng health department official was gunned down outside her home in Mondeor, in the south of Johannesburg, in August in what appears to have been a hit. Nothing was stolen but Deokaran was a witness in various corruption probes – including the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU’s) investigation into R300 million worth of dodgy personal protective equipment (PPE) tenders.

ALSO READ: ‘Confessions’: Suspects detail how they stalked, shot Deokaran

The six suspects currently before court – Phakamani Hadebe, Zitha Radebe, Nhlangano Ndlovu, Siphakanyiswa Dladla, Simphiwe Mazibuko and Sanele Mbhele – were arrested less than a week later and are facing charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, and attempted murder.

They are thought to have been hired hands and made various admissions to police after they were nabbed – including that former health minister Zweli Mkhize was apparently their paymaster. However, they now claim they were tortured and coerced, and that this information was, in fact, false. Mkhize has also vehemently denied any involvement.

During Tuesday’s arguments, Wilkins – who represents all six accused – tore into the state’s case, describing it as weak and “non-existent”.

The now-disputed admissions aside, Wilkins labelled the evidence against his clients “insufficient”.

He called into question whether a white BMW the state identified on video footage and maintains was used by the gunmen that day, was in fact even involved – and pointed out it still had not been located, three months after the murder.

He also said as far as he and his team were aware, the ballistics analysis of a firearm seized during his clients’ arrests was still outstanding. He further questioned the whereabouts of the R400,000 his clients allegedly received for the “hit”.