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Murder-accused warder was very close to killer inmate

Staff Reporter

Murder-accused Mojalefa Letele, a former prison warder at the Goedemoed Correctional Centre near Rouxville, had a very close relationship with an inmate, Jongikhaya Madala Sam-Sam, with whom he allegedly connived to attack and kill his colleague Nomsa Stuurman in March last year, the Free State High Court has heard.

So close were the two that Letele, 49, is said to have often assigned Sam-Sam, 38, to do chores for him including cleaning for him, mending his clothes and polishing his shoes.

The allegations were made by the first state witness in the trial of Letele, who is facing a charge of murder or, alternatively, conspiracy to commit murder in the killing of Stuurman.

The witness, a serving prisoner, shared a cell with Sam-Sam, who has since been convicted of killing Stuurman and raping another female warder.

The witness will not be named in this story in order to protect him from possible harm.

“At one point he was given a pair of trousers to fix and he made a mistake by making the legs a bit short,” said the witness referring to the way Sam-Sam had sewn the seams of the trousers.

“He (Letele) wanted the seam of the trousers to touch the shoe when wearing it but, on that occasion, the trousers was a bit shot. The socks were showing and he didn’t like it.”

Asked during cross-examination by defence counsel Advocate Kenneth Pretorius how he knew the trousers belonged to Letele, the state witness replied: “We stayed in the same cell. I was behind the door . . . when (Letele) brought the trousers in a plastic bag.”

The witness also told the court that Sam-Sam, a fellow member of the ‘26s’ gang, had confided in him that he was planning a brutal attack on Stuurman because she disrespected him.

“He (Sam-Sam) told me that there’s a ‘young girl’ who’s disrespecting him. He didn’t tell me what exactly was happening, but he said he was going to stab her.”

According to the witness, he tried to dissuade Sam-Sam from doing such a thing as they were in the process of applying for parole.

He said he even reported the matter to Letele but, unbeknown to him, the two were acting in concert.

“Were you surprised when Sam-Sam implicated the accused (Letele)?” Pretorius asked.

“Yes I was shocked . . . I want to say I’m surprised . . . but maybe he (Sam-Sam) had his own reasons for not telling me what he did and why,” the witness said.

Letele is denying the accusations.

It is the state’s case that Letele offered a pair of shoes and promised to pay Sam-Sam R100 000 if he could organise with other inmates to remove certain people from his eyes by killing them because they always gave him problems.

The state also claims Stuurman was killed by Sam-Sam when he took her hostage and hit her with a hammer in the head before stabbing her to death with a broken scissors.

It is believed Letele organised a hammer and a broken scissors for the prisoner to carry out the attack when he was taken out to clean some offices.

The inmate also took another woman hostage for several hours, during which time he raped her.

Sam-Sam is said to have entered the offices of the unit where he had been assigned to clean.

He raised a false alarm by telling one prison officer that some inmates were fighting in cells in that wing.

Upon return, after finding no one fighting, the prison officer could not enter as Sam-Sam had locked the steel ‘grill’ door to the offices with a padlock and barricaded the door with two tables.

Sam-Sam attacked Stuurman in her office with a hammer – allegedly normally used to test locks – and stabbed her to death with the broken scissors.

Thereafter, he took the other female officer hostage, threatening her with the scissors.

A police hostage negotiating team was called to work with the Department of Correctional Services officials.

However, during the negotiations, Sam-Sam requested time to pray alone, but instead took his hostage to a back office and raped her.

He eventually handed the keys for the padlock to the prison officials and surrendered.

Sam-Sam, who was already serving two life sentences for rape and attempted murder, was handed a further two life sentences by the Free State High Court in October last year after he was found guilty of killing Stuurman and raping the other female warder inside the prison.

He got an additional three years for kidnapping after he isolated the two women before attacking them.

The state is represented by advocates Lefalake Bouman Mpemvane and Moipone Moroka.

The trial continues.

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