COURT PROTEST CHAOS

Farm­ers ap­pear for ‘as­sault’ of girl, 9

Pretoria News - - FRONT PAGE - JAMES MAHLOKWANE james.mahlokwane@inl.co.za

RUB­BER bul­lets and stun-grenades flew out­side the Bronkhorstspruit Mag­is­trate’s Court as hun­dreds of ANC and EFF mem­bers led a chaotic protest against what they termed “a dis­ap­point­ing” jus­tice sys­tem.

Farm­ers Jo­hannes Pot­gi­eter, 34, and Hen­dricks Du­mas, 48, were ap­pear­ing in court for al­legedly kid­nap­ping and as­sault­ing a 9-year-old girl on Septem­ber 9.

Ac­cord­ing to the fam­ily, the child and three other girls had been walk­ing their dogs. They fol­lowed a stray dog into a farm, where the al­leged at­tack took place.

While the other three man­aged to run away, the girl was caught, al­legedly as­saulted and had a ri­fle pointed and fired in her di­rec­tion.

This trau­ma­tised the child, said her fa­ther, who can­not be named to pro­tect her iden­tity. “My daugh­ter is not do­ing well at home and school be­cause of this. You can see how she shiv­ers at the sight of white peo­ple. She is scared even when we drive past the farm be­cause it is on her way to school.”

Ac­cord­ing to charge sheet, the sus­pects force­fully hand­cuffed the mi­nor to a tree, as­saulted her with fists and fired a ri­fle in her di­rec­tion.

They ap­peared in court soon af­ter their ar­rests and were de­nied bail. How­ever, af­ter turn­ing to the Gaut­eng High Court, Pre­to­ria, they were granted bail.

Mag­is­trate Ja­cob Tsatsi said he had de­nied the sus­pects bail on the ba­sis that some of the wit­nesses were work­ing for the sus­pects on the farm and he did not want them in­flu­enced.

The ac­cused yes­ter­day ap­peared in the dock in the pres­ence of an an­gry crowd, fac­ing charges of kid­nap­ping, as­sault with in­tent to do griev­ous bod­ily harm, point­ing of firearm and at­tempted mur­der.

The prose­cu­tion ap­plied for a post­pone­ment for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which Tsatsi al­lowed. The mat­ter will be back in court on March 13 next year.

Af­ter the post­pone­ment, the two men quickly ex­ited the dock and ran. They dis­ap­peared be­fore the crowd in­side the court could get out of their seats.

Emo­tions and anger then took over as ANC and EFF mem­bers ad­dressed Tsatsi di­rectly, vent­ing their frus­tra­tion over the re­cent spate of at­tacks on black peo­ple by “racists” in Bronkhorstspruit.

They said they had been at­tend­ing nu­mer­ous cases where white peo­ple were hurt­ing black peo­ple in racially mo­ti­vated crimes, and were not happy with the way the jus­tice sys­tem han­dled the cases.

They told the mag­is­trate the sus­pects were “placed on a pedestal” and that while farm­ers staged “Black Mon­day” a fort­night ago, yes­ter­day was “White Tues­day”.

Shortly af­ter the ac­cused dis­ap­peared, pro­test­ers started throw­ing stones, prompt­ing a po­lice nyala to rush in and se­cure the area.

Po­lice of­fi­cers man­aged to herd pro­test­ers into one area in front of the court.

EFF sub-re­gional con­vener Ganadhla Mabona said: “We sup­port the fam­ily of the vic­tim and we also want to voice con­cern at the way our peo­ple are be­ing abused and mis­treated by racist peo­ple in Bronkhorstspruit.

“We were also dis­ap­pointed by the way the ac­cused were granted bail with­out the fam­ily of the vic­tim’s knowl­edge at a the high court af­ter they were de­nied bail here,” he said.

Tsh­wane ANC Youth League leader Le­sego Makhubela said they were unhappy the case had been post­poned. He said the jus­tice sys­tem was slug­gish, de­spite the case be­ing im­por­tant to the com­mu­nity.

The crowds de­manded that Ma­tric Lupondo of the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity ex­plain how and why the sus­pects were granted bail.

While they waited for Lupondo, they threw stones and bot­tles at the po­lice who were safe­guard­ing the en­trance. The po­lice sub­se­quently, fired rub­ber bul­lets and stun-grenades.

The mother of the vic­tim and her son emerged just as the rub­ber bul­lets were be­ing shot. She was in­jured. She was rushed to hospi­tal.

Scores of pro­test­ers were in­jured by rub­ber bul­lets while some were ar­rested. They were re­leased af­ter EFF and ANC mem­bers flocked to the Bronkhorstspruit po­lice sta­tion. EFF mem­ber Olivier Mo­goru wanted to open a case of ma­li­cious dam­age to prop­erty against po­lice who shot and broke the win­dow of a ve­hi­cle that be­longed to fel­low “fighter”, Michael Se­lala.

Amid the chaos, the crowds re-grouped in the CBD where the smell of gun pow­der hung low. They crit­i­cised the po­lice for us­ing ex­ces­sive force. They said some of the peo­ple who were shot at did not pro­voke the po­lice.

Lupondo said the de­part­ment would soon ex­plain why the ac­cused were granted bail.

My daugh­ter is not do­ing well at home and school be­cause of this; she shiv­ers at the sight of white peo­ple

Fa­ther of young girl

Jo­hannes Pot­gi­eter and Hen­drick Duma are ac­cused of kid­nap­ping and as­sault­ing a 9-year-old girl. They ran out via the back door af­ter their case was post­poned to next year. PIC­TURES: BONGANI SHILUBANE/ANA

Po­lice ar­rested some pro­test­ers at the Bronkhorstspruit Mag­is­trate’s Court.

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