JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South African prosecutors on Tuesday withdrew charges against a man arrested for the murder of South Africa’s national football captain Senzo Meyiwa.
The Boksburg Magistrate’s Court heard there was “not sufficient evidence” to put Zanokuhle Mbatha on trial.
“I note the withdrawal of charges by the State against Mbatha and consequently the court orders the release of Mbatha today,” said magistrate Daniel Thulare.
Mbatha, 25, was arrested and charged with murder and armed robbery just days after Meyiwa, 27, was shot dead at his girlfriend’s house outside Johannesburg last month during a botched robbery.
Thulare said he understood the “anger and frustration” of a public looking for a conviction, but released Mbatha “after careful consideration of the submissions made”.
There was a large police presence outside court Tuesday where a group of fans from Meyiwa’s local club, Orlando Pirates, were gathered.
Mbatha himself did not appear in court.
Nathi Mncube, spokesman for South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority, said Mbatha was pointed out during an identity parade by two people in the house at the time of the robbery.
But he said prosecutors were dissatisfied with the “discrepancies, inconsistencies and contradictions” in the evidence collected.
“We thought it fair to withdraw the case,” Mncube said.
“We will allow the police to continue their investigation. If we are then satisfied with the evidence collected against any person, we will re-enroll the matter.”
Mbatha’s family and friends have been adamant in interviews with local newspapers that police had arrested the wrong man.
At a press conference last week, head detective Vinesh Moonoo said, “From the investigation so far, we are sure that the person we have charged is one of the suspects in the incident.”