The six men accused of killing whistleblower Babita Deokaran will have to wait until later this month to find out if their bids for freedom have been successful.
They made a brief appearance in the dock of the Johannesburg Regional Court on Thursday when judgment on their applications for bail was set down for 20 December.
At a previous appearance, a dispute arose as to whether accused number three – Nhlangano Ndlovu – was South African or Zimbabwean. Apparently, he told the police he was Zimbabwean when he was arrested but now denies this.
On Thursday, an affidavit from his mother confirming he was born in Weenen, KwaZulu-Natal, was also read into the record.
Deokaran was gunned down outside her home in Mondeor, south of Johannesburg, in August in what appears to have been a hit. Nothing was stolen and Deokaran was a witness in various graft probes – including the Special Investigating Unit‘s (SIU’s) investigation into dodgy personal protective equipment (PPE) tenders worth R300 million.
The suspects currently before court – Phakamani Hadebe, Zitha Radebe, 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 confessions and admissions immediately after they were nabbed – including that former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was apparently their paymaster – but now claim they were tortured and coerced and that these were in fact false.
Mkhize has also since vehemently denied any involvement.