#PrellerSquareShooting: Former Grootvlei head alleges he is being intimidated

Yet another witness in the murder trial of Bloemfontein businessman Louis Siemens alleges he has received numerous threats against his life in the wake of his testimony.

This time the witness is the former Grootvlei prison head and Mangaung Private prison adviser, Tatolo Setlai, who has been giving evidence at the Bloemfontein High Court since Tuesday. The 65-year-old Setlai, who also headed security at Grootvlei at some point in his career, addressed Judge Pitso Molitsoane as proceedings got underway, not only on the intimidation allegations but also on his concerns regarding the level of security inside courtroom B.

Setlai says the accused in the dock are interacting with members of the public in the packed gallery during adjournments and he has observed exchanges of parcels being made. Molitsoane notes the concerns and implores those who have been threatened to report this to the investigating officer so that it can be addressed formally.

Both Molitsoane and prosecutor Johan de Nysschen warned against the alleged intimidation of witnesses, mentioning that 41-year-old former waiter at Annie’s Country Kitchen, Ohuliseng Selemela, revealed in court that he was also threatened in the midst of his testimony. De Nysschen went a step further warning those committing the acts, that intimidation of witnesses is a prosecutable offence that carries a possible life sentence.

During the pre-trial phase, accused number one, Stanley Bakili, was accused of sending the state’s key witness and confessed assassin, Xolisile “Botha” Mbebetho, a letter, between July and August 2019, from the Grootvlei Prison to an unnamed prison in Kimberley. In this handwritten letter Bakili allegedly threatens the lives of Mbebetho’s girlfriend and child, should he continue with his testimony. As a result of this, Bakili is facing an additional charge of obstructing/defeating the ends of justice.

Siemens was shot and killed on 10 May 2018 in the basement parking area of Preller Square Shopping Complex. It is alleged the deceased was paying bribes to government officials through Bakili to have CityMed’s hospital bed licence amended to allow for more beds, when the business partnership soured. Bakili joins Molebatsi Mogoera, Kagiso Chabane, Mojalefa Jali Molusi, Moeketsi Lesia, Clive Tshivenga Karabo Tau and Sizwe Mpati. They are between the ages of 29 and 56, and include three police officers, a disbarred advocate, an accused in separate double murder cases, and a military man.