A technical expert from MTN South Africa brought by state prosecutors in the assassination case of Kayumba Nyamwasa has been found to be questionable after it emerged today in court that much of her testimony may have been fabricated.
The witness is Ms. Hilda Du Plessis, a Data Analyst with MTN Group. Since it is alleged that the six suspects who tried to kill Kayumba had used phones to communicate, the witness was brought in to analyse the data on the phones obtained from the suspects. It is that evidence that she provided to the Jeppestown magistrate court in Johannesburg in the previous sessions presided over by Magistrate Stanley Mkhari.
However, when the court resumed today (November 30), and it was time for the defence attorneys to cross examine her, it emerged that much of what she has testified was made-up evidence. As the witness was being torn apart, Kayumba Nyamwasa watched unmoved, next to his son Mark, and several people who seemed to be his associates.
Witness not knowledgeable?
In a particular case, Ms Du Plessis confessed that she was not a qualified Engineer - suggesting she did not have the knowledge to be able to analyse phone data. The witness also admitted that she does not have the technical knowledge specifically on the frequency of towers and only relied on training she received from MTN.
In her original testimony, the witness said the phone towers around where Kayumba was shot at, had picked up signal from the phones of the accused because they were within the fixed 5km radius. However, it emerged in court today that the phone towers can pick signals from phones as far as 50km away.
Using analysis from telecommunications experts, the defense also informed the court that a person can make a call in Johannesburg and if the nearest tower is busy, then the next tower can automatically pick a signal, and that this can be 60 kilometres away.
In the original testimony, Ms Du Plessis was linking particular phones to each of the six suspects by name. However, when she was asked how she found out that phones actually belonged to the suspects, the MTN witness said no voices had been recorded. Ms Du Plessis also added that to her, the evidence presented was only numbers, but that they were linked to the suspects by the South African State prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams.
No records of conversations
For example, she was asked by one of the defence advocates how she knew that a particular phone number belonged to Accused 5 (Hemedi Denego Sefu). Ms Du Plessis responded that she had been given the information by State prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams.
In yet another setback for the prosecution, the defence complained in court that it had not received the section 205 subpoena to "exhibit DD DD", which is the phone number - allegedly belonging to Pascal Kanyandekwe. He is the suspect whom the prosecution claims funded the assassination plot, and that he tried to bribe police officers with a US$1million offer - which they refused, and instead arrested him.
Section 205 subpoena refers to a document that was used by prosecution and defence to request for permission to analyse the phones of the accused. The phones were in possession of police as it is detectives who allegedly recovered them from the suspects.
The defense also complained that they did not receive section 205 subpoena to "exhibit FF FF", the phone SIM card allegedly belonging to Sady Adouu - one of the six suspects.
More controversy emerged from the MTN witness' original testimony. Ms Du Plessis was also asked today to clarify what she meant when she said in her original testimony that Accused 5 (Hemedi Denego Sefu) was speaking to Accused 4 (Richard Bachisa) at a given time of the shooting on June 19, 2010.
She responded that 'Conversations were not recorded and there were no records for conversations'. The MTN witness said that she may point to the conversations, but does not know "what was being talked about".
As per the deduction of the defense advocate: When Ms Du Plessis said that Accused 5 (Hemedi Denego Sefu) was in conversation with Accused 4 (Bachisa), it might as well be that it was Accused 1 (Amani Aruwani) who was talking to Accused 2 (Hassani Hoamedi Nduli) since you cannot tell who was in conversation with who by merely using the numbers.
Anger in court
In other damning evidence, the advocate pointed that in exhibit LL LL (phone belonging to Isa Mohamed), the MTN witness originally said that Accused 5 (Hemedi Denego Sefu) and Accused 4 (Richard Bachisa) were in conversation with this number, when in fact she cannot tell who was in conversation with whom.
The advocate said: "Instead of implying that Accused 5 (Hemedi Denego Sefu) was in conversation with Accused 6 (Kanyandekwe), she should have said such number 078......was calling such number 076...."
With this level of contradictions merely 30minutes into the opening of the session, the magistrate called both the defense and prosecution to decide another sitting. The three sides agreed that the case be reopened on January 14-18, 2013, and would continue in May 06-17, 2013.
Our correspondent in court says that when the magistrate announced the new dates, there was open hostility on court from the suspects who say they have been in custody for too long. Kayumba Nyamwasa rushed out of the courtroom from the backdoor with state prosecutor Abrahams.
Back in the court, the six suspects refused to stand up from their benches, bitterly complaining that the case was unnecessarily dragging on. The families of the accused also said they were getting fed up of having to supply food to the accused.