Kwaito star Tokollo Tshabalala is a free man at last, seven years of haunting behind him.
Tried this week in the Village Magistrate’s Court in Botswana in connection with a road accident in which two people died, Tshabalala had agonised over the prospect of a death sentence, then life imprisonment.
Businesswoman Mary Josephine Manyatsi died at the scene, and her passenger, Tumelo Desmond Monaisa, died later.
But yesterday, Tshabalala’s South African lawyer, Billy Gundelfinger, celebrated quietly in Gaborone with Tshabalala, his soccer mogul father “Screamer” and his sister Neo after magistrate Lot Moroka handed down his not-guilty verdict.
Tshabalala – whose head injuries from the crash were so severe that he had to have steel plates inserted into his skull – has always said he was not driving the car that collided head-on with the other vehicle.
And Gundelfinger successfully argued that there was insufficient evidence to place him behind the wheel.
Moroka slammed the investigating officer, saying he had presented the court with conflicting evidence and that the state had failed to prove a prima facie case.
Speaking quietly on his cellphone soon after the case had ended, former Bafana Bafana coach Screamer Tshabalala said he had felt smothered with worry, “but it’s only natural – he’s my son”.
The acquittal has brought peace to the family and to Tshabalala’s closest friend, producer Godfrey “Guffy” Pilane, who was in the car on the night of the tragedy. Pilane’s tongue was injured in the accident and he had difficulty speaking for a long time afterwards.
Late yesterday, Gundelfinger said Tshabalala had flown back to South Africa and was “ecstatic, just elated. He’s in a euphoric state.
“You should see him, he is on cloud nine. It has been seven years of hell for him. The Botswana government put a red-flag warrant out on him. That meant he couldn’t leave the country. And TKZee couldn’t accept any international gigs. This case has weighed very heavily on Tokollo and his bandmates,” said Gundelfinger.