#PrellerSquareShooting: Postponement to prepare for unnamed witness

Proceedings in the murder trial of Bloemfontein businessman Louis Siemens have been postponed to next week in preparation for an unnamed witness that is expected to occupy the witness box for much of next week.

Following the testimony and subsequent cross-examination of fingerprint expert at the Local Criminal Record Centre (LCRC), Molefe Chomane, in the Bloemfontein High Court, prosecutor Johan de Nysschen requested Judge Pitso Molitsoane to postpone proceedings to Monday 25 November to enable the state to prepare adequately for the next witness who is expected to give lengthy testimony and also be cross-examined by the defense for quite some time.

De Nysschen further says arrangements pertaining to security need to be finalised before this witness can take to the box, leading to assumptions the prosecutor was referring to confessed assassin in the case, Xolisile Mbebetho, commonly known as “Botha”.

More than a year ago, Mbebetho pleaded guilty to pulling the trigger that ended the life of the then CityMed Managing Director, Louis Siemens, on 10 May 2018. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison by the Bloemfontein High Court and turned state witness.

The then 39-year-old gunman was arrested in Phahameng in early October 2018 after being on the run since Siemens was shot four times and killed, nearly five months prior. In his first appearance in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on 12 October 2018, Mbebetho was in a leg brace and experienced a difficult time walking. Johan de Vries told media pictures of the gunman couldn’t be taken because his life was under threat at the time. In fact, it was believed the accident in Kimberley, Northern Cape, that left him with said injury, was, in fact, the attempt on his life.

During the pre-trial phase, accused number one and alleged mastermind, Stanley Bakili, allegedly sent “Botha” Mbebetho a letter, between July and August 2019, from the Grootvlei Prison. In this handwritten letter Bakili allegedly threatened the lives of Mbebetho’s girlfriend and child, should he continue with his testimony. As a result, Bakili is facing an additional charge of obstructing or defeating the ends of justice.

As already reported, 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.

So far in the four-week trial, some of the high profile individuals that have testified, include former Free State Health MEC Benny Malakoane, former Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, and current Head of the Provincial Health Department, David Motau. It is pertinent to note, no security measures were announced to have been made, ahead of the testimonies.

Bakili, Molebatsi Mogoera, Kagiso Chabane, Mojalefa “Jali” Molusi, Moeketsi Lesia, Clive Tshivenga, Karabo Tau, and Sizwe Mpati are the eight men standing trial. 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.