ON A KNIFE-EDGE

Senekal Magistrates’ Court carries the scars of violent protest as suspect appears for bail hearing

By Bheki C Simelane and Shiraaz Mohamed 19 October 2020

Two bullet holes in the glass (top centre left of image) at the Senekal Magistrates’ Court cash hall. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Two bullet holes in the glass entrance to the Senekal Magistrates’ Court remain as evidence of the violent storming of the court by a group of protesters against farm murders earlier this month. The court was quiet on Monday when a suspect allegedly involved in the protest appeared and was granted R15,000 bail.

After a number of violent confrontations outside the Senekal Magistrates’ Court in the Free State over recent weeks, the court precinct was peaceful on Monday for the bail hearing of towing company owner Stefanus Johannes Fourie, the second person charged with public violence related to the storming of the court on 6 October.

A policeman walks past a police Nyala outside the court before the bail application of Stefanus Johannes Fourie. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

The quiet was in stark contrast to the confrontational scenes by two large groups of protesters outside the court on Friday when two suspects appeared in connection with the murder of farm manager Brendin Horner, 21. 

There were no protesters outside the court on Monday. A water cannon and two police Nyalas were parked down the road from the court. Public Order Policing (POP) vehicles patrolled the area and police officers stood on alert outside the court, while a third Nyala patrolled the streets around the court. 

Fourie, 33, was granted R15,000 bail. He was charged with attempted murder, malicious damage to property, public violence and arson following the turmoil on 6 October that led to a police van being overturned and torched outside the court. A small group stormed the court and two shots were fired – on Monday two bullet holes were still evident in the shattered glass at the court entrance. 

Stefanus Johannes Fourie (back of the image, wearing a blue mask) is led into the courtroom by police. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

The State told the court on Monday that it would not oppose bail. 

“It’s in the interests of justice to grant bail to the accused, and furthermore, the State did not oppose his bail,” magistrate Fundiswa Lufuta said.

She warned Fourie not to interfere directly or indirectly with police investigations in the matter.

Stefanus Johannes Fourie stands in the dock talking to his legal representatives before his bail application. (Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed)

Fourie said he was not at the court when it was stormed, and that because he owns a tow-truck business he had rushed to the scene after receiving reports that a police car had been overturned.

“As far as I am concerned, my client is innocent and did not cause any trouble for the court,” his lawyer Wayne Gibbs said.

Fourie said his business would suffer if he was not granted bail. He told the court that he had a previous conviction for speeding, and also one for malicious damage to property. 

The case was postponed to November 20 for further investigation.

Police keep watch during the bail application. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

His appearance followed the arrest and court appearance of a first accused, Andre Pienaar, 51, who also faced charges of malicious damage to property and public violence in connection with the storming of the court. The Senekal Magistrates’ Court had denied him bail, but this was successfully overturned in the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein on Monday morning. He was granted R15,000 bail.

Senekal has been on a knife-edge in recent weeks, with tensions high on Friday when EFF supporters and farmers gathered separately in large numbers outside the court where the two men accused of Horner’s murder, Sekola Matlaletsa, 44, and Sekwetje Mahlamba, 32, were appearing.

Stefanus Johannes Fourie’s family members talk to his legal representative after the tow truck company owner was granted bail of R15,000. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

They are expected back in court on Tuesday 20 October for a continuation of their bail application.

(See context to the violent confrontations in Senekal here: Farmers, Stock thieves and police: Battle Lines are drawn in Free State). DM

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  • How is it possible that these two men are charged with public violence and malicious damage to property when nothing happened to Julius Malema and his thugs after the Clicks debacle?

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