A BLUEWATER Bay, Port Elizabeth, optometrist and former Mr South Africa finalist went face to face with one of his alleged attackers in court yesterday during a dramatic description of an early morning robbery in Kwazakhele.
Mncedisi Mapuma told the high court how he was shot in the face and blinded in one eye in a violent attack that ended his modelling career.
A notorious gangster in the area, Thabang Jaftha, was charged with being the gunman and with raping one of the passengers in Mapuma’s vehicle.
Charges against him were, however, withdrawn after he was killed in October 2010.
The National Prosecuting Authority decided to go ahead with four charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances against Jaftha’s alleged accomplice in parts of the crime, Zola Njara.
Njara yesterday admitted to seeing Jaftha shoot Mapuma and rape one of his passengers.
"But all he did was watch,” his counsel, Khaya Saziswa, said.
Njara, 29, pleaded not guilty to all four charges. He did not give a plea explanation.
Mapuma, 37, is a qualified optometrist who was a finalist in the Mr South Africa contest in 2007 before the attack ruined his modelling career.
He told the court that on June 20 2008 he had a party at his house in Bluewater Bay. At about 4am the next morning he drove to Kwazakhele to drop four of his guests off at their homes.
He dropped off one of his passengers and then stopped at his practice in Kwazakhele to pick up keys.
"I parked the car at the entrance to the practice. The vehicle was still idling. The streetlights were on and my headlights were on.”
He was waiting for his passengers to pick up keys and some clothes at a nearby flat when suddenly the driver’s side window was shattered. "I saw a hand trying to open the door from the inside. I understood that it was a robbery. I did not want to wait to see what they were going to do.
"The doors locked automatically. The person on the outside did not know how to unlock the doors. I only focused on the hand.
"I unlocked the door and opened it, pushing the person behind the door away. I then stepped out of the vehicle and grabbed him by his arms. I was going to wrestle with him but noticed a shadow behind him. Then I knew he was not alone.
"Suddenly something flashed in my face. I heard a loud noise. I assume it was a firearm. I knew they were there to rob and that they would have either a knife or a gun.
"Blood was running down my left cheek. My cheek became numb. My left eye went blind. I stumbled and fell on the ground.
"The next thing I saw was [Njara]. I recognise his face. He had a scar above his left eye,” Mapuma said.
He yesterday walked right up to Njara in court to look at his face. Referring to the scar, he said: "It is still there but it has faded.”
"While I was lying on the ground, the men were searching the driver’s side, they said they were looking for a gun. Then they rolled me over, searched me. Took R400, my identity document, my wallet, my driver’s licence. They also took my cellphone.
"Njara told the other man I was dead. They then left me and went back to the car to search some more. I pretended to be dead. But I could still see. I did not want them to notice that I was still alive.
"They were robbing the other passengers. The tall one dragged me to the wall. He did not want passing cars to see me. He dragged me like you would drag a bag of potatoes.
"Then I saw the shorter one was busy with one of the passengers. [From his movements] I deduced he was raping her. When I looked again, both of them had vanished.”
Mapuma said he went to look for help but by the time he found people an ambulance was already on the scene.
He was first taken to Livingstone Hospital and later transferred to Greenacres Hospital, where he had surgery to his face and another operation to remove the bullet from his shoulder.
His left cheekbone was shattered. He lost the sight in his eye and had to endure a painful operation to drain fluid from the damaged eye, Mapuma explained.
Saziswa said his client would admit he was at Mapuma’s surgery at 4am.
"He will say that Jaftha then took out a firearm and shot at the motor vehicle. The bullet broke the driver’s side [window] of the car.”
Saziswa said his client would also admit that Jaftha had shot Mapuma, but would deny that he took part in the robbery.
The trial continues.