Ex Africa semper aliquid novi

Nobody really won on 25 July 2005.

In a town in South Africa on the night I mentioned, Mr Shavhani Ramusetheli was shot in what may have been a robbery.  Four men were charged with murder, robbery and attempted murder.  In the Limpopo High Court, one of the men was convicted of murder and aggravated robbery.  The sole evidence against him was an extra-curial statement by one of his co-accused exculpating himself and incriminating the others –

In that statement, the first accused alleged that he was party to a conspiracy involving his co-accused in terms of which it was agreed that they would rob the deceased of his money. He alleged that his role was to point out the deceased’s homestead to the second and third accused whilst the fourth accused’s role was to supply the firearm to be used during the robbery. The appellant drove them to the deceased’s home in a Toyota Venture motor vehicle owned by the appellant’s employer. The first accused said that he was an unwilling participant in this escapade but was compelled to participate for fear of reprisal at the hands of his co-conspirators and in particular the fourth accused. He went on to allege that it was the second accused and the appellant who committed the offences with which they were charged and that the former was the one who pulled the trigger. In his testimony at the trial, the first accused in substance regurgitated the contents of his statement.

Mulaudzi v S (Theron, Petse and Willis JJA, Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa, 20 May 2016, unreported)

The man with whom we are concerned was sentenced to imprisonment for life for murder and to 20 years imprisonment for robbery: S v Mushweu & Ors (Limpopo High Court, Makgoba AJ, 22 August 2005, unreported.

LP High court
Image from here

The defendant appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal.  The matter took over a decade to be dealt with, largely for reasons outside the appellant’s control.  Lewis and Saldulker JJA and Mothle AJA noted that the common law principle that

admissions made extra-curially were not to be used against a co-accused. … [S]ince any out-of-court statement by a co-accused would compromise the constitutional right to a fair trial, it should not be admissible against an accused.

The Court upheld the appeal and set aside the conviction.  A verdict of acquittal was entered in its place.

Ndwambi v S, The South African, 20 June 2018.