'Tell the world I didn't kill Senzo'
"They say I killed Senzo, but I didn't. I'm not a killer."
These are the protestations of Zamokuhle Mbatha hours after charges against him relating to the murder of soccer star Senzo Meyiwa were withdrawn provisionally and he was released from Boksburg Prison.
"People want to kill me because they say I killed Senzo . I am scared. I fear for my family. The police protect people. I want to know if they will protect me and my family," Mbatha said exclusively to The Times yesterday.
Prosecutor Gertrude Market had called for the provisional withdrawal of all charges against him, saying new evidence had been obtained. She did not elaborate.
Ordering his release, magistrate Daniel Thulare said: "We have public prosecutors, not public persecutors. I implore fellow countrymen to respect the processes of the court."
Mbatha, 27, was arrested days after Meyiwa was shot dead on October 26 while visiting his girlfriend Kelly Khumalo at her mother's Vosloorus, East Rand home. Police believe he was killed in a botched robbery and Mbatha was charged with murder and robbery.
But he is adamant that he had nothing to do with the killing.
"Why say it was me? I want answers.
"I want an apology, from the police, from those who told the world it was Zamokuhle Mbatha."
Mbatha told of the terrifying moments of his arrest: "I was at the spaza shop. The police came and asked if I was Zamokuhle. Then they took me. They didn't say why or where I was going. They just took me."
When they eventually told him he was a suspect in Meyiwa's murder, Mbatha had protested his innocence
"I didn't understand. I told them it wasn't me. I knew Senzo. Everyone knew him. We saw him in the streets. I know Kelly because I washed her car."
He had been equally terrified when hauled to an identity parade.
"I was with 12 others. I couldn't see who identified me. I was just told I had been identified."
He said the police's identity kit had got him into trouble.
"It's a splitting image of me, but I don't know how those who spoke to the police could say it was me. I didn't kill Senzo."
Asked if he had a message for the Meyiwas or Khumalos, he said: "I just want answers. Why accuse me? They and the police must tell everyone, the world, it's not me, that I am not guilty.
"I want an apology . on TV just like when the police went onto TV and said it was me, Zamo, who killed Senzo.
"The police, who were 100% sure it was me, must explain why they are not now 100% sure."
Mbatha's sister Lindiwe Mbatha said they wanted to know why the Khumalos had had him arrested. He had been asleep at the time of the killing, she said.
"After the shooting Zamo went to the Khumalo home. He was there because we live close by and heard what happened. Not once did those inside the house point to him, even when he was right in front of them, and say, 'There's Senzo's killer.' "
Meyiwa's father, Sam, said: "What do we say? We just want justice."
National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Ncube said when first presented with the docket there had been sufficient evidence to pursue a case against Mbatha.
"Information which has now come to light raises a lot of questions . including why only two of the seven inside the house could identify the accused."
He said prosecutors felt the case could not proceed with so many inconsistencies in the evidence.
Ncube would not say whether witnesses had lied.
Police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila said the withdrawal of charges was provisional and not an acquittal.
"He can still be charged. It gives investigators time to clear up prosecutors' queries."
Police were confident that Mbatha was somehow connected to the incident, he said.
Asked about Mbatha's request for an apology, Malila said: "We do investigations. We are not in the business of apologising."