The Mthatha high court heard on Tuesday that magistrates and prosecutors were afraid to participate in investigations in the wake of the Ngcobo police station massacre.
Veteran detective Lt-Gen Mark Magadlela was tasked with overseeing the investigation after the five officers were slain in February 2018.
Magadlela, of the SAPS national office, testified on Tuesday in the trial of five Seven Angels Ministries members accused of the killings.
They are Andani Monco, Kwanele Ndlwana, Siphosomzi Tshefu, Siphesihle Tatsi and Phumzile Mhlatywa.
A trial within a trial is now under way as the men have claimed their confessions were coerced by police officers.
Magadlela said he arrived in Ngcobo on February 23 2018, but found local magistrates and prosecutors were “afraid to get involved”.
He said he had told them that arrests could be made and confessions might be expected.
Even though he exchanged numbers with a prosecutor, her phone remained off.
He was also unable to get hold of a magistrate.
That was how senior police officers ended up taking confessions from the accused. However, nothing prevented commissioned officers from taking confessions, he said.
Magadlela said he was present in a courtroom when a person called Lwandiso Poswa was brought in for an interview on February 25.
Poswa gave officers information that they followed up on, he said.
Ndlwana, he said, was among more than 40 people taken in for questioning.
Magadlela said he read Ndlwana his rights, but before he could finish Ndlwana interrupted him, saying he did not believe in constitutional rights.
The officer said Ndlwana became angry as he continued to read him his rights.
The accused want their confessions to be removed from evidence, claiming these were obtained through assaults, torture and suffocation.
All five men in the dock are representing themselves in the trial.
Monco, the first accused, asked Magadlela during cross-examination how he felt when he heard about police being killed.
“It was a shock,” Magadlela responded.
When it came to his turn to question Magadlela, Ndlwana disputed that the officer had read him his rights or that he had interrupted him.
Tshefu, meanwhile, put it to Magadlela that he was present during his interview in a garage.
“I never questioned you. I don’t even know the garage you are talking about,” Magadlela responded.
Tshefu continued: “You [Magadlela] said if I know nothing [about the incident], they [police] will assault me until my chief Thandazile [Mancoba, one of the brothers later killed in a shoot-out with police] wakes up from the dead.
“After that, a short man who was wearing a leather jacket came near me and said what I must say.”
But Magadlela simply said: “You are fabricating stories now.”
The trial within a trial continues.
By Ziyanda Zweni – DispatchLIVE