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Road rage debacle

Posted : 13 May 2013
A PORT Elizabeth man who was accused of savagely beating a business owner in a racist road rage incident last year walked out of court a free man yesterday after he was acquitted due to a lack of evidence.

The victim, Bluewater Bay businessman Phumelele Nomatye, who still battles to see out of his left eye as a result of the brutal beating, rushed out of the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court as soon as the judgment was given, looking upset.

Lee Mitchell, 24, was accused of following Nomatye from Walmer to his Bluewater Bay home, where it is alleged he called him a “k****r” before beating him while Nomatye was still seated in his vehicle.

Although the registration number of Mitchell’s white BMW led to his arrest shortly after the incident, yesterday the court found that there were too many holes in the victim’s testimony.

Nomatye, 50, a taxi owner, suffered lacerations and bruising to his eye, ear and forehead.

Although medical reports corroborated the assault, magistrate Jan Steenkamp said the state had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mitchell was the perpetrator.

Nomatye had incorrectly described Mitchell to be a man in his 50s and said he had been driving a white BMW or Audi at the time.

Steenkamp said looking at the red-faced, largely built Mitchell seated in the dock, it was clear he was in his early 20s.

In his first statement to police shortly after the June 29 incident, Nomatye had also given an incorrect registration number. He later contacted the police with a different registration, which was then traced back to Mitchell.

Mitchell was arrested at his father’s St George’s Park home on July 13.

Yesterday, on the first day of trial, he pleaded not guilty to a charge of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

A distraught-looking Nomatye told the court it was shortly after 6pm on June 29 when a man, who he believed to be Mitchell, pulled up behind him.

Nomatye had just returned home from running errands in Walmer and was parked outside the garage at his Eileen Drive home.

“He [Mitchell] came to me and asked me to roll down my window. I opened my door because I thought he needed help with something,” Nomatye said.

“He asked why I had reversed without looking, so I asked him what he was talking about.”

Mitchell allegedly responded: “Jou ma se p**s, you don’t even know where you reversed your car.”

He allegedly called Nomatye a “k****r” before beating him.

Nomatye said he was certain it was Mitchell who had beaten him because he was standing so close to his car at the time of the attack.

“I got a good look at him. There were street lights outside my house.”

He said he had jotted down Mitchell’s registration number as he sped off.

Nomatye’s older brother, Mlungisi Zondi, who had reportedly been just houses away at the time of the incident, rushed to his aid.

He told the court that he only caught a glimpse of the side of Mitchell’s face but was also certain it was him.

While Nomatye conceded that he had initially given police the wrong car registration number, he said he had been so “traumatised” and “confused” after the incident, he had read the number out incorrectly. He said he immediately alerted the police when he realised his mistake.

Swartkops police traced the number to Mitchell’s father’s house, where Nomatye identified him as his assailant.

At the close of the state’s case yesterday, defence attorney Danie Gouws brought a application for his client’s acquittal, after he claimed the state had failed to prove its case.

He said while it was not in dispute that Nomatye was a victim of an assault, the state could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that it was Mitchell who assaulted him.

Steenkamp agreed. “It is clear the complainant was assaulted, and while it is unfortunate, it is not clear who conducted the assault,” he said.

Attempts to get comment from Nomatye after the court case yesterday were unsuccessful. His home in Bluewater Bay was locked up and he did not respond to calls.

This is a version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, May 11, 2013.

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