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SIPHO SHONGWE LOSES EXTRADITION CASE

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MANZINI - It is final, the court has ruled that Sipho Shongwe must be extradited to South Africa, but this will be after his murder case in Eswatini has been finalised.


This is according to the ruling issued by Manzini Principal Magistrate David Khumalo concerning the extradition application, which was filed by the South African Government.


Khumalo said according to the extradition application filed in 2018, the SA Government wanted Shongwe to face charges of escaping from Barberton Maximum Prison, absconding sentence, forgery and uttering. He said the respondent was also wanted to complete his outstanding sentence in the neighbouring country.


When issuing the judgment, the court said: “The respondent (Sipho) must go back (to SA) to serve his outstanding sentence and answer to the escaping, forgery and uttering charges.”


Surrendered


The principal magistrate said after being surrendered to South Africa, he (Shongwe) would be at the disposal of the Case Management Committee (CMC), which would calculate how long his outstanding sentence was.
“So, the extradition application succeeds, but the surrendering of the respondent (Shongwe) shall not be effected until his pending case in the requested State is finalised,” the court said.


The requested State in this context is the Kingdom of Eswatini and Shongwe is facing a murder charge, whereby he is accused of having a hand in the death of businessman and football administrator Victor Gamedze. The businessman was shot dead on January 14, 2018 at Galp Filling Station in Ezulwini.
The court added that if Shongwe would be acquitted and discharged in the matter, Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini would, as per the law, surrender him to the requesting State (South Africa).


However, the court said if Shongwe would be found guilty in the murder charge and gets convicted and sentenced, he would have to serve his jail time before he could be surrendered to South Africa.


Unlawful


The court said in its findings, the respondent escaped from a South African prison as he was aware that his liberation was unlawful. It said whosoever orchestrated the forgoing and uttering of his release documents (liberation warrant and court order), did this on behalf of Shongwe. It said this was because Shongwe’s conduct, after he was erroneously released from Barberton Maximum Prison, pointed in that direction.


The court said when Shongwe was erroneously released from prison, he was freed using documents which were a subject matter in the extradition case. It said Pretoria High Court Senior Registrar Clerk, Ketsile Matshidiso Ramadwa, was one of the key witnesses regarding this issue.
It said in her testimony, she said she was the one responsible for issuing out liberation warrants at Pretoria High Court and disowned the two documents used to release Shongwe from prison.


In fact, the court said Ramadwa mentioned that the documents did not originate from her court.
“She concluded that the liberation warrant and court order were forged,” the court said.

 


Again, the court said Eric Mokoena, who is a Record Supervisor at Barberton Maximum Prison, acknowledged that in 2009, they discovered that there were a lot of irregularities about Shongwe’s release documents. He said they found that he was released using forged documents and admitted that they made an error in that regard.
Therefore, the court said the question was if Shongwe was part of the forging and uttering of the documents. It said it was noted that the release documents were faxed from outside prison.


Erroneous


However, the court also mentioned that by the time of his erroneous release, the respondent had already exhausted all available legal avenues to secure his freedom. It said he made attempts to overturn his conviction at the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court in the neighbouring country. The court said unfortunately, all his requests to overturn his conviction and sentences were unsuccessful.


On the other hand, the court said the respondent told it that there was no crime for walking out of prison when being released. However, it said its question was what came to his mind when he was told about his release. It said this question arose  from the fact that he had already exhausted all legal channels to gain freedom, but failed.


In that regard, the court said the prosecution argued that whosoever forged the documents, did it for the respondent and might have got instructions from him, thus they might have common purpose of committing the crimes.
“The prosecution argued that Shongwe knew very well that he was not supposed to be released from jail, but he decided to walk out when he was told that he was a free man,” the court said.


Again, it said after he was erroneously released, he made sure that he evaded being detected by the South African Immigration system. It said evidence brought to the court was that he did this by not stamping his passport on the South African side whenever he was going in and out of the neighbouring country.
However, it said he used to stamp his passport when using OR Tambo International Airport. In that regard, the court said Shongwe seemed to have done his homework because he knew that when a flagged person was in the transit area at the airport, he could not be detected.  Again, the court said, when he was going to Mozambique, he would stamp his passport on both the Eswatini and Mozambican side.


“So, the question is why he evaded all the other ports of SA by not stamping his passport. This shows that he was aware that his unlawful release from prison was tantamount to escaping and absconding sentence,” the court said.


Once more, regarding the issue of an outstanding sentence, the court said Shongwe had two life imprisonment sentences and in terms of the law, he was supposed to serve at least 20 years before being considered for parole.


Remaining


It said by the time of his erroneous release, it was submitted that he had served between seven or eight years and there were about 12 years remaining. However, the court said the respondent’s contention was that between 2017 and 2018, one of his co-accused, Ernest Shandu, was released on parole. In response, the court said Mokoena explained that sometimes the CMC amended the parole terms.


Again, the court said Shandu was released several years after Shongwe was erroneously freed. It added that the fact that Shandu was released between 2017 and 2018, did not mean that the respondent finished serving his sentence. It said this was because he was released far earlier than Shandu.
The court said it did not have a duty to say the exact remaining sentence of Shongwe. However, it emphasised that when he was released, he was still serving, which proved that he had not completed the sentence.


It said his jail time, which he was supposed to serve, was disrupted by the forged release documents. It said if the documents were not forged and uttered, Shongwe would have remained in jail until the CMC considered him for parole.

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