Mduduzi Manana, deputy minister of higher education, was let out on bail on Thursday for allegedly violently attacking two women. His court appearance was weird. Whether anyone will hold him to account is unknown. By GREG NICOLSON.
Journalists and activists waited for hours on Thursday for Mduduzi Manana to appear in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court. “The accused is currently in custody,” Prosecutor Yusuf Baba told the magistrate at 14:00. The cells below rung open, echoing in the courtroom. Up walked Manana, smiling in a navy suit. He sat in the dock and was told to stand.
Manana must rise and face his charges. That’s been the call across society since he was captured on camera brutally beating a woman over the weekend. No one official wants to admit it, but Manana’s political position affords him a type of leniency from the justice system reserved for the rich and elite.
Members from the #NotInMyName campaign, which stands against gender-based violence, spent the morning waiting for Manana outside court. Themba Masango said police and the government missed a chance to arrest the deputy minister of higher education and training and send a strong message against attacks on women. In high-profile cases, when suspects are politically connected, they’re not arrested, he said.
Andile Gaelesiwe, also from #NotInMyName, said, “As a rape survivor myself, I never would have thought all these years later this issue would be so huge and almost be breaking at the seams.” This year, like all years, has seen horrendous attacks on women. There was #MenAreTrash. Women have disappeared, been kidnapped and killed. Accounts of violence against women and children are so frequent they’re a part of the social fabric.
Well-known lawyer Ulrich Roux gave a comment outside the court. He noted similar cases where the accused were swiftly arrested. “Certainly, questions arise about whether there’s double standards here and whether he is receiving special treatment here because he is a deputy minister and once again I think what society expects is consistency from the police.” SAPS can take its time before taking a suspect in, but given the video evidence and basic admission to the crime from Manana, the police failed to act on the case.
“Where should a woman in South Africa get peace and actually live her life? Where?” asked Gaelesiwe.
Cubana’s out. Manana was filmed at the Fourways nightclub early on Sunday morning beating a woman. Men helped directly by holding her down and offered indirect assistance as passive onlookers. The video showed the attack inside the club, but it allegedly continued in the car park. Two victims laid charges of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
“We were just chilling with my friends and suddenly, the deputy minister and his friends got angry, he was enraged and started the whole commotion. We are traumatised,” one of the victims told eNCA. She said they were discussing the ANC succession race before Manana’s table joined the conversation. It got heated and he attacked the victims when they called him gay or told him to “stop being so gay”.
Manana’s trigger was being called gay, which says a lot about him, our elected leaders, and the country. He could have “used his words” but his president has said he would punch a gay man, so what would we expect from an executive appointee?
In a statement on Tuesday, Manana claimed to “apologise unreservedly” to Mandisa Duma, one of the victims. “Regardless of the extreme provocation, I should have exercised restraint,” he continued, nullifying his apology. “I will subject myself fully to the process of the law and give it my full co-operation.”
Really? A case was opened on Sunday. SAPS said they couldn’t reach Manana because his phone was off (perhaps they should have called his police bodyguards). He admitted to the “shameful incident” and was caught on camera. Police Minister Fikile Mbalula was one of the many voices calling on him to hand himself in to police, but according to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) he only handed himself over to the Douglasdale police station on Thursday morning.
Photographers waited outside court for hours to snap Manana only for journalists inside to run into the accused in the hallway before he was rushed away. He avoided the media when he arrived at court by entering through a back entrance and it was thought he went into a meeting with the prosecutor for an hour-and-a-half before making an appearance in court. The special treatment, later denied by the NPA, was blatant.
He appeared in court for five minutes. An application by the media to film the hearing was rejected by Magistrate Liezel Davis. Manana was represented by Michael Motsoeneng Bill, who founded Motsoeneng Bill Attorneys and hosts a legal show on Kaya FM. He wouldn’t comment on how the accused would plead.
As Manana stood in the dock the court heard he had no previous convictions and no pending cases against him. He was released on R5,000 bail, with his case postponed to 13 September. He smiled at his friends as he walked back to the cells. Daily Maverick tried to reach out to Douglasdale police station spokesperson Captain Mpho Kgaswane to understand whether Manana did hand himself in and was taken by the police to the court, but couldn’t get comment on Thursday evening.
NPA spokesperson Hurbetin Phindi Louw said according to the information the NPA had, there were no pending cases against Manana. If there were, the state would be obliged to argue against his release on bail. She said he had not been snuck in through the back door but arrived from the Douglasdale police station, like other prisoners awaiting trial, in an SAPS van. Louw disputed reports that Manana went into a meeting with prosecutors at the court – she was there – and said the delay was due to a meeting with the victims’ relatives.
This isn’t the first time Manana has been accused of beating women. In Ermelo last month the deputy minister was accused of throwing a young woman on a car and beating her. Either she or her friends allegedly then hit him with a bottle. Their case against Manana was withdrawn, supposedly due to the pressure of taking on an elite politician. Sources on Thursday said the case had been reopened, which could mean Manana should have been denied bail.
So, we have a deputy minister facing charges of assaulting women. President Jacob Zuma is responsible for Manana’s executive position, but his spokesperson Dr Bongani Ngqulunga on Thursday said he was in a meeting and didn’t respond to questions on whether action would be taken against the deputy minister.
At its 2012 Mangaung conference, the ANC said members should be suspended from official positions while facing criminal charges, but Daily Maverick could not connect with party spokespersons on Thursday on whether the ANC believes Manana should be suspended.
Gaelesiwe from #NotInMyName, who works with children, asked, “This is a leader. What should happen in schools if the one who is supposed to be the cultivator of education is attacking women?”
Manana left the court after a cat and mouse game to avoid the media. His bodyguards signalled each other, drove back and forth. Eventually he emerged, surrounded by a group of men, and was huddled into a Mercedes van which drove away behind his blue-light vehicle. Frustrated by their wait, starved of information, journalists threw questions at Manana. He smiled and drove away.
If we allow elected leaders to avoid responsibility, what does it say about the country? It says, this is South Africa. #MenAreTrash. Elected and elite men are trash, just like the others, but they can avoid accountability, or at least take an easy ride through court. DM
Photo: Deputy Higher Education Minister leaves the Randburg Magistrate’s Court. He received bail after being charged with two counts of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm. Photo: Greg Nicolson