Port Elizabeth – Zolani Sibeko lodged his first bail application in the Eastern Cape High Court in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, arguing that the State did not have a prima facie case against him.
Sibeko is currently a co-accused in the Jayde Panayiotou murder trial.
He is facing charges of conspiracy to commit murder, murder, kidnapping and robbery with aggravated circumstances.
Christopher Panayiotou is accused of hiring a hitman through a bouncer at his nightclub to have his wife Jayde murdered on April 21, 2015.
Jayde was kidnapped while waiting outside the Stellen Glen complex, Kabega Park, for her lift to work that morning. She was found shot dead in a veld near KwaNobuhle the next day.
She worked as a teacher at Riebeek College Girls’ High School in Uitenhage.
The bouncer, Luthando Siyoni, turned State witness before the trial, but was declared a hostile witness after refusing to answer the State’s questions for two days straight last month.
Panayiotou, Sibeko and co-accused Sinethemba Nenembe have all pleaded not guilty.
Another co-accused, Sizwe Vumazonke, the alleged hitman, died in hospital after slipping into a coma in September, before the trial began.
‘The State doesn’t know what its case is’
Addressing Judge Irma Schoeman on Tuesday, attorney Peter Daubermann argued that the State’s case against his client was based on cellphone and vehicle tracking data, and that the State did not even have a cellphone expert as part of their witness list.
Daubermann said State prosecutor Marius Stander had submitted an affidavit from one Khunelo Vandala, wherein his client was implicated as being part of the conspiracy to kill Jayde.
However, the State failed to make mention of this in their summary of substantive facts in the trial.
In Vandala’s affidavit, he says Sibeko had approached him to assist in a job for Vumazonke, and that he and Sibeko were to source a firearm for the hit.
Daubermann said, at the very least, Vandala had implicated himself in the conspiracy to kill Jayde, and yet the State had not arrested him, nor given an indication if they intended offering him indemnity or not.
“The only reconcilable inference is that the State doesn’t know what its case is. It does not have the evidence to prove its case and adopts a version to suit the situation,” he said.
Daubermann argued that the State had also failed to show that his client was a possible flight risk, or that he would tamper with evidence or intimidate witnesses.
He also pointed out that Sibeko had not been convicted nor did he have any active pending cases against him.
Cellphone experts to testify
But Stander pointed out that this was a schedule six case, which meant that the onus was on Sibeko to prove that there were exceptional circumstances to justify his release, and this had not been done.
Stander said the State did in fact have two cellphone experts who would testify before the report compiled by data analyst Thereza Botha was submitted.
He said, when looking at the cellphone records between April 1 and April 30, 2015, there were 163 calls made between Sibeko and Vandala and a further 89 calls between him and Vumazonke.
Daubermann countered, saying the volume of calls did not show anything as there was no evidence indicating the content of the calls.
Stander, referring to the cellphone and GPS data, showed how on April 15, Sibeko had made an early morning call to Vumazonke, which had been logged on the Linton Grange tower.
Following the call, the GPS data showed the vehicle immediately accelerating and turning into Deacon Street, which is where the entrance is to the townhouse complex from where Jayde was abducted.
He showed that the following day, on the 16th, a similar pattern could be seen, with Sibeko calling Vumazonke and the vehicle then moving from a parked position nearby into Deacon Street once again.
Sibeko linked to armed robbery
Daubermann said the State had submitted that Sibeko had been linked to an armed robbery of the Greeff Butchery in Despatch in 2008, where approximately R40 000 was stolen, but said his client had not yet been brought before court on charges for the case, despite the State “having all the time in the world to arrest him”.
“This is a desperate attempt to keep [Sibeko] in jail,” he said.
Daubermann pointed out that the fingerprints linking his client to the armed robbery were found on the getaway vehicle above the licence plate, and their presence could have come about out of innocent circumstances.
Stander, however, said Sibeko had only been arrested in mid-July this year, with the trial in the Panayiotou matter beginning the following month.
He pointed out that this was Sibeko’s first bail application and, as such, the onus of determining if Sibeko was linked to other crimes, or not had only now come about.
Judge Schoeman said she would make a ruling on Monday, December 12, at 13:00.