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New twist a witness in former MEC’s double-murder case is dock, accused of killing a cop

The plot in the double murder and attempted murder case against top Mpumalanga ANC politician, Mandla Msibi (45), has taken a twist after one of the state witnesses was charged with the murder of two people, one of them a police officer.

Lifa Nkosi (42) appeared in the Barberton Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday for allegedly gunning down Detective Constable Nkosinathi Lucky Ngwenya and Jafta Mnisi outside a liquor outlet on October 16.

Nkosi is the outgoing councillor of ward 45 in Barberton.

Ngwenya, who was attached to the Detective Services Unit in Mbombela, was off duty when he and Mnisi died in a hail of bullets.

The shooting happened when Msibi, the former agriculture, rural development, land and environmental affairs MEC and ANC provincial elections manager and his co-accused Joseph Charlie Ngwenya (35) and Tshepo Matsane (30) were in police custody.

Msibi handed himself over to the police on October 11 after being sought for allegedly shooting dead Sindela Sipho Lubisi and Dingane Ngwenya and attempting to kill Sifiso Mpila on August 22.The incident happened outside Coyotes Shisa Nyama in Mbombela. Msibi and his co-accused were released on R20 000 bail each on October 18.

Nkosi claimed that the Coyotes shooting was a failed attempt on his life. Ward 45 had been contested by the allies of Msibi and his ex-colleague, finance and economic development MEC Vusi Mkhatshwa who lives in ward 44.

Mkhatshwa’s group opposed the nomination of Njabulo “Tshugulugu” Mkhonto, a Msibi ally who went into hiding in the former MEC’s house because he claimed there was a plot to assassinate him.

The Coyotes shooting was preceded by confrontations at the Nutting House Lodge, just outside Mbombela, where the ANC officials and alliance partners held an extended list conference.

Ward 45 comrades allegedly went to the venue and tried to enter in order to argue their case about Mkhonto’s candidature. But the police turned them away and although there was allegedly a shooting incident there were no casualties.

It has been alleged that comrades in a VW Polo and a double-cab bakkie, who were at odds with one another, then left Nutting House. When those in the bakkie caught up with those in a VW near Coyotes, they opened fire, killing Lubisi and Ngwenya on the spot.

A few days after the shooting, Nkosi was quoted in the Lowvelder newspaper as saying: “Upon arrival at Nutting House we were approached by unknown men. I had seen them at the Mbombela Civic Centre earlier that day where they threatened to kill me if I proceeded with the election process, but I did not know what to do at the time.

“A man came towards my window and started banging on it. The driver said he heard the man cocking a gun and he sped off towards Mbombela. They chased us in their vehicle.

“A few metres before we joined the N4, the gunman opened fire. As we were driving, we alerted our friends, who were also on their way to the conference, to avoid the area. They then joined us on the road instead and we drove together to Sonpark,” he said.

Nkosi said they discussed the incident at Sonpark and after that he got into another car and went back to Nutting House. Three of the people he was with went to the police station to report the shooting.

“Upon arrival, I received a phone call telling me that some of my comrades who had gone to the police station had been shot and killed in an ambush in the street outside Coyotes,” he said.

Nkosi was arrested by the Mpumalanga Hawks on November 16. Provincial Hawks spokesperson, Captain Dineo Sekgotodi, could not say if Ngwenya and Mnisi’s murders were linked to the shooting incident in which Msibi was implicated.

City Press understands that the police officer and Mnisi were Mkhonto’s friends. Sekgotodi said: I don’t know any other details other than what is in the statement we issued.

Nkosi will appear in the Barberton Magistrate’s Court on November 25 for his bail hearing.

CityPress

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