Court hears how ‘rumour-monger’ prompted Durban shooting spree

Durban – The Awol soldier who went on a shooting spree in Inanda and Ntuzuma using his R4 rifle was found guilty of murder and attempted murder in the Durban High Court on Friday.

Prompting his killing spree was the work of a rumour-monger whose telephone call to infantryman Thembinkosi American Ngcobo in Upington about his girlfriend and their baby getting into a car with another man, sent him off the rails.

“That person can feel proud because the rumour-monger has caused the accused to land himself in the problem he is in and for three people to lose their lives,” said Judge Shyan Gyanda.

“Two people were severely injured and – but for the grace of God – there would have been more.”

However, the girlfriend was not one of his victims. Rather it was her sister, Nokwanda Mbambo, he killed. The others were another sister, Nondudzo, who, along with their mother, Nomusa, was later killed by unknown gunmen. That case is still under investigation.

Ngcobo had shot and injured Nonduzo when he killed Nokwanda, for which Gyanda found him guilty of attempted murder.

Ngcobo left his guard post at 8 SA Infantry Batallion, Upington, in January 2017 to kill his girlfriend and child as well as himself, using his R4 service weapon.

Prompted by information he received from a friend that his girlfriend had been seen with a baby getting into a car with another man, Ncgobo drove to Durban – more than 1100km – in 12 hours, the judge recounted. “The fact remains, from the evidence, that the person dealing with false information was just believing what he wanted to and that the accused had become aggressive towards Nontokozo because he could not get hold of her.

“When she testified, she said she had lost her phone. The rumour-­monger then telephoned the accused. Clearly, he was going to believe she was having an affair,” the judge said.

The other man turned out to be her pastor.

The judge rejected Ngcobo’s evidence that he was not in military uniform, that his firearm had been tampered with during ballistics test to implicate him and that he believed he had been reacting to a robbery during a shootout with police, and had not seen a fleet of police vehicles driving towards him.

“It’s the sight of these vehicles that panicked him into jumping out of the vehicle and shoot,” said Gyanda.

“He had valid reason to fear arrest.”

The judge called Ngcobo, who had pleaded not guilty to 18 charges, “a blatant liar”.

He found that Ngcobo had shot the two sisters at their home in Inanda, killing one of them, on January 31, 2017, then went to one of their relative’s home in Ntuzuma in search of his girlfriend.

Word reached the Ntuzuma house of the Inanda shooting, along with a warning that Ngcobo was on his way.

A relative, with a neighbour, went to the police station to report the threat when they met a patrol and boarded their vehicles. Police in the fleet of three cars ended up in a shoot-out with Ngcobo. A policeman and the Ntuzuma neighbour were injured.

Ngcobo fled. Police established from the licence disc on the white VW Polo he had been driving that Ngcobo owned the car. Its number plates had been removed.

Ngcobo eventually handed himself over to the military in Durban, who took him to Inanda police station where he was charged.

State witnesses, whose evidence the judge accepted, testified that he had been dressed as a soldier while he claimed he had been in black jeans and light blue T-shirt. He said the gunman in military clothes must have been someone else.

Ncgobo was acquitted on two charges related to kidnapping, because no witnesses had been forthcoming to testify against him.

The case has been adjourned to Wednesday.

Independent On Saturday

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