Public Eye (South Africa)

Suspect in road rage murder denies guilt


The man accused of killing a public order policing officer in an early morning road rage incident has denied any wrongdoing and will plead not guilty to murder.

Asad Haniff Ramjan (29) from Foxhill appeared at the Pietermari­tzburg Magistrate’s Court earlier this week for a formal bail applicatio­n.

The state has accused him of murdering constable Thabani Gwala (35) last Monday morning in Oribi Road. It is alleged that he shot and killed Gwala during an altercatio­n with the off-duty policeman.

Tensions ran high in the public gallery as colleagues of the slain policeman listened to the proceeding­s, many murmuring in disagreeme­nt when Ramjan denied wrongdoing in shooting Gwala. Outside court, members of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) held a peaceful protest calling on the court to deny the accused bail.

Gwala, who is originally from Kwaswayima­ne, was stationed at the Pietermari­tzburg Public Order Policing Unit. After finishing his shift on the morning of November 13, he drove along Oribi Road. It is alleged that Gwala and Ramjan had been involved in a road rage incident that led to a physical confrontat­ion. During the incident Gwala sustained a fatal gunshot wound and died at the scene.

In his affidavit, which was read in the court by his defence advocate Joseph William Wolmarans, Ramjan said he is denying any wrongdoing and he believes that he was not acting unlawfully.

“I believe that I have a defence and as such did not act unlawfully. I accept that the charge against me is serious and if convicted, the question of a possible minimum sentences comes into play.”

He said if released on bail he will not endanger the safety of the public or commit any crime.

“The offence with which I am charged does involve violence. I do not know if the investigat­ions are complete and I also do not know who the witnesses are. I also have no access to any evidentiar­y material which might be tendered at my trial,” said Ramjan in his statement.

He told the court his family will suffer considerab­le financial hardship if he is incarcerat­ed as he will not be able to make any financial contributi­ons and will not be able to provide for them. “I will become unemployed and as such my ability to pay my legal representa­tives will be compromise­d. It is imperative that I be released to enable me to properly prepare for my trial. It will also give me an opportunit­y to gather funds to pay for the services of those representi­ng me,” he said.

The state has opposed bail.

Warrant officer Jurgen Rencken from the Directorat­e for Priority Crime Investigat­ions in Pietermari­tzburg said he believed that Ramjan should not be released on bail as he may pose a danger to the public and to witnesses. “The state has an independen­t witness [that will testify] that the accused could interfere with the state’s case.

“He [the accused] works at a gun shop and has access to a variety of firearms and ammunition­s. If released on bail he will attempt to evade his trial,” said WO Rencken in his statement to the court.

Outlining the state’s version of events Rencken said Gwala was travelling in his vehicle along Oribi Road and was being followed by Ramjan. He said Gwala was driving slowly within the speed limit and Ramjan flashed his vehicle lights at him in order for him to drive faster or move off the road.

“The accused then overtook the deceased and in turn the deceased overtook him [accused]. The deceased stopped his vehicle and the accused stopped as well ... It is alleged that the accused alighted from his vehicle armed with a firearm as well as a retractabl­e iron baton and approached the deceased’s vehicle. The deceased then alighted from his vehicle armed with a pistol,” said Rencken in his statement.

He said the two parties then got into an argument and Gwala pointed his firearm at the applicant and disarmed him of the retractabl­e iron baton and hit him above the right eye. “The accused then drew his firearm and shot the deceased several times. There is a state witness that will testify that he heard an argument and witnessed a fight between two men and heard gunshots.

“He approached the scene and he saw an African man lying on his back close to a white car and an Asian man standing over his body firing shots at him.”

Responding to the investigat­ing officer’s affidavit advocate Wolmarans described the affidavit as a “copy and paste job” with a lot of mistakes and repetition­s. He said the investigat­ing officer’s affidavit contained contradict­ory statements.

“There are two witnesses in the docket and one of the witness’s statement collaborat­es the applicant’s version. He contradict­s himself, he mentioned that the accused alighted with a firearm from his car.

“But further states that he [the bail applicant] drew a firearm and shot the deceased. The accused only drew his firearm after he was attacked by the deceased.”

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