A state witness in the Glebelands trial told the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Wednesday that he had tipped off the police before the murder of Sipho Ndovela in 2015.
The witness, who cannot be named and who testified in camera, told how he would work with accused number one Bhekukwazi Mdweshu to organise the killings of residents whom Mdweshu believed were getting in the way of his rule at the Glebelands hostel in Umlazi.
The witness testimony was linked to the murder of Fikile Siyephu in February and Sipho Ndovela In May 2015. Ndovela was an eye-witness to Siyephu's death. He was shot dead at Umlazi GG police station when he went to testify.
The witness told the court that Vukani Mcombothi (accused number three) was also involved in the shootings. In all eight men are facing 22 charges including nine murder and seven attempted murder charges. The seven other accused are Khayelihle Mbuthuma, Mcombothi, Eugene Hlophe, Mbuyiselwa Mkhize, Ncomekile Ntshangase, Mondli Mthethwa and Bongani Mbhele.
The witness said he would have meetings with Mdweshu to organise the killings when things were still going well between them. He used the term "ukushaya" which he explained to the court meant to kill.
The witness, who said he had lived at Glebelands hostel since the 1980s, said Mdweshu had forced the residents from 64 rooms in Block 52 to pay a "safety fee" of R50. Each room had four beds, according to the witness.
"The money was used to buy weapons and pay the hitmen," said the witness.
He said problems began when a member of the committee at the hostel, Tshepo Hlambelo, started selling rooms and beds in Glebelands hostel. He asked Mdweshu, as a policeman, to intervene in problems at the hostel.
Mdweshu had then wanted to know who in the block had paid, how much, and who had not paid.
Fikile Siyephu, a hostel resident at the time, was seen by Mdweshu as an obstruction to his running the hostel, said the witness. Mdweshu had told the witness that Siyephu had been sent by another resident, William Mthembu, to kill him.
"Mdweshu said we must hurry up and kill Siyephu," said the witness.
"He (Mdweshu) was the one who would organise hitmen for the killings. Normally when a person would be killed, Mdweshu would be on duty as he worked as a policeman."
The witness also said Ndovela and Siyephu had been seen drinking together at a tavern by Vukani Mcombothi (accused number three, who was also living in Glebelands) and Sthembiso Mbanjwa. The four had an argument and Siyephu was shot next to Block 49.
I know he was shot by Mcombothi and Mbanjwa," said the witness.
The witness pointed at Mcombothi in court.
Asked by state advocate Dorian Paver if he knew where Mbanjwa is now the witness said he did not know.
He said Ndovela had been hit by a bullet during Siyephu's shooting.
Mdweshu had known that Ndovela was an eye-witness to Siyephu's murder, the witness said, and had managed to get the court date of Siyephu's case through a computer system.
"He told me that he knows Ndovela will be going to court 18 May 2015," said the witness. He said Mdweshu had told him to find hitmen to kill Ndovela.
"I was reluctant. I asked him how that would be done as there would be armed police at the police station. Mdweshu was stubborn," said the witness.
Mdweshu organised Ndovela's death with a hitman, Bonga Hlophe, who was living in the hostel. Hlophe was now deceased, he said.
The state witness had tipped off the police about Ndovela's planned murder.
"I met two investigative officers by Beach Hotel. I do not know where those policemen got my number. They kept on calling me and I decided to see them," said the witness.
He said the murder charge against Siyephu had been withdrawn after Ndovela was killed.
The witness will continue testifying on Thursday.