January 29 2008 at 08:59AM
'Please leave my daddy's things alone." This was what a tearful five-year-old girl begged robbers before they allegedly throttled the child and left her for dead.
Ntombini Mweli, a domestic worker, was testifying against David Papi Matladi, 37, who stands accused on charges of attempted murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, two counts of kidnapping and charges of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
He has pleaded not guilty.
In his plea explanation, Matladi told the Johannesburg High Court he was standing outside the complex in Senderwood, Bedfordview, and was waiting for someone to offer him a piece job. He said he did not enter the complex but was incorrectly arrested as one of the perpetrators.
However, Mweli testified that, during the robbery on March 22 2006, Matladi and his accomplice, who is still at large, choked her employer's five-year-old daughter, Lee van der Merwe, and, believing she was dead, bundled her into a wardrobe.
Mweli told the court that she knew Matladi.
"I first met Matladi on December 5 2005 during my first day as a domestic worker for Susan van der Merwe.
"He and other people were employed by Susan van der Merwe to install a shower in the flatlet. I saw the other man for the first time (during the robbery) in my life," Mweli testified.
She gave the court a detailed account of how robbers came to her employer's house and told her that they were there to put on tiles in her employer's en-suite bedroom.
She allowed Matladi into the house because she knew him.
She said she was surprised minutes later when Matladi and his friend tied her hands with cable ties.
"They then started to pack clothes, a safe and tins into a bag … I managed to free myself and went to the dressing table with the hope of getting a key to the door leading to outside the house.
"Matladi saw me before I could reach the dressing table. He came rushing to me and scolded me for loosening myself.
"He threatened me. He fastened me again with the plastic handcuffs and ripped apart my overall and then used a piece to gag my mouth and hands.
"Matladi further then saw Susan's hairdryer lying on the floor and he picked it up and then used its electrical cord to tie my hands," Mweli recalled.
She added that they also choked the child, who was crying and asked them to stop taking her father's things.
Mweli said Lee begged as they choked her: "Please leave my daddy's things alone."
According to her evidence, Matladi and his friend then bundled the girl into a wardrobe before disappearing with the goods.
Mweli said she managed to release herself and then went on to rescue the child.
Matladi was caught by security guards outside the complex.
The trial continues.