The video of a man, alleged to be one of the instigators of the fire at Brookside Mall during the July 2021 unrest, became the centre of discussion during the first day of his trial at the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court on Monday.
Mdumiseni Khetha Zuma (35), who is in custody after his bail was denied, is facing two charges of contravening the Riotous Assemblies Act, which includes inciting public violence and inciting arson.
The charges relate to the incidents of looting and violence that occurred in KwaZulu-Natal in July, in particular, the burning of the Brookside Mall, two of incitement to commit public violence and incitement to commit arson.
Brookside Mall in Pietermaritzburg on fire on Monday, July 12, 2021. PHOTO: FILE
The trial is set to take place this whole week.
During the court proceedings the state started off by playing a video of a man believed to be Zuma, before calling witnesses to testify.
Before the trial started, Zuma told the court that he is pleading guilty to all the charges against him.
In the video which was taken with a cellphone, the man is seen wearing a white Fabiani T-shirt, a white cap, and a red face mask walking inside the mall.
Speaking in IsiZulu he can be heard saying: “Well, comrades as you had sent me. Can you see how quiet the mall is? They have closed at Brookside. If they dare open, we will arrive at 6 in the morning to check if they have opened. If they are open, we are going to destroy here. We are going to cause destruction here. We do not want any person … working tomorrow.
It is shutdown everywhere, the entire KZN. ‘Maritzburg, we don’t want anything. We are closing. If they dare open here, we are coming in tomorrow.
The video was taken a day before Brookside Mall was burnt on Monday, July 12, 2021.
The state also called witnesses to testify about the video and the understanding of the context of the video.
One of the state witnesses Khulekani Mzozo, who was a court interpreter in Durban in July 2021 told the court that he was contacted by a principal interpreter informing him that he had to go and watch the video and that he had to interpret it into English.
Asked what message he got after seeing the video, he said the person in the video was speaking to the people he had spoken to before he took the video.
He was observing the situation for those he spoke with. He was telling them that if things do not go according to his plan, there were steps/actions that they were going to take. According to the context of words used, there was going to be destruction and damage to property.
Defence lawyer, Clive Turton asked Mzozo if it was possible that the message in the video could have meant something else, other than what has been interpreted.
He maintained that the speech in the video was straightforward and there is no other translation for it.
Turton said according to Zuma’s version there is another interpretation of the words that were used in the video.
Another state witness, Colonel Mlungisi Cyril Sibisi said he was also asked by his superior to translate the video into English.
He said according to the video, Zuma was encouraging people to go and shut down the place and destroy.
The state also played video footage showing Zuma at Brookside Mall just before 6 pm on July 11, 2021.
The case is proceeding on Tuesday.
The publication previously reported that in 2019, Zuma worked at the Brookside Mall as a security guard at Checkers.
The state revealed that he left his employment because of a fallout with his employer.
Before his arrest, Zuma worked as a security guard stationed at Cambridge Food in Pietermaritzburg for three months.
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