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Mashatile’s VIP Protection Unit officers to spend weekend in custody while bail application continues

Mashatile’s VIP Protection Unit officers to spend weekend in custody while bail application continues
Eight VIP Protection Unit members at the Randburg Magistrates’ Court on 24 July 2023. (Photo by Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s VIP Protection Unit members caught on camera assaulting motorists alongside a Johannesburg highway will spend the weekend in custody after their bail application was postponed to Tuesday, 1 August 2023, at Randburg Magistrates’ Court on Thursday. Here’s what we know so far.

On Thursday, 27 July, eight members of the VIP protection unit attached to Deputy President Paul Mashatile appeared in the Randburg Magistrates’ Court to continue their bail hearing. However, magistrate Hlengiwe Mkhabisi could not pass judgment and postponed the matter until Tuesday, 1 August.

This comes after the eight accused – Shadrack Molekatlane Kojana, Johannes Matome Mampuru, Posmo Joseph Mofokeng, Harmans Madumetja Ramokhonami, Phineas Molefo Boshielo, Churchill Mpakamaseni Mkhize, Lesiba Aggrie Ramabu and Moses Fhatuwani – made their first court appearance on Monday, 22 days after a motorist caught them on camera assaulting four military trainees on the N1  highway in Johannesburg.

They handed themselves over to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) on Sunday afternoon. They face 12 charges that include malicious damage to property, assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm, pointing a firearm, reckless or negligent driving and an attempt to defeat or obstruct the administration of justice.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Firearms and assault charges for VIP Protection Unit officers after N1 attack

This week in court, one of the accused claimed they were protecting “South Africa’s second [most] important citizen” and that the video wasn’t a true reflection of the events that day, as it had not captured everything that occurred.

Another accused claimed the victims were drunk and that it wasn’t assault; instead, the VIP unit members were trying to “calm the situation” when they stopped the Polo Vivo car and that the occupants retaliated when the police officers identified themselves and asked them to step outside the vehicle.

The accused have further argued the State’s case against them is weak and based on speculation given that none of the Polo Vivo occupants has positively identified any of the accused.

Read more in Daily Maverick: We were protecting SA’s second-most important citizen, says Mashatile protection officer in highway assault case

Meanwhile, the State has opposed the bail application, stating that the video places the eight accused at the scene of the incident despite not being positively identified by any of the car occupants.

State advocate Elize le Roux added that the assaulted men feared for their safety and that if the accused were granted bail they might intimidate State witnesses.

This comes after Anton Philipus Jacobus Koen, a security expert who first shared the video, received a threatening message from an untraceable device. Le Roux said the SAPS members have access to specialised equipment and personnel despite having been suspended.

On Thursday, advocate Xabiso Sotshongaye, representing the accused, said the eight officers should not be held liable because of the perception that VIP units in general acted recklessly on the roads.

“Does that mean, the ones who are before court should be punished because they are from the VIP unit? The answer is no, because they are facing their own charges.”

The person who captured the alleged attack on video wants to remain anonymous. Sotshongaye argued that the court could not rely on it as evidence if its origins were unknown.

Timeline of events so far:

  • 2 July 2023, around 4 pm – Assault incident happens on N1 between Johannesburg and Pretoria and is reported by VIP unit members to convoy leader Lieutenant-Colonel Shange. It is registered at 11.45 pm the same day, with some of the details omitted from the report, particularly the assault.
  • 3 July 2023, evening – Video of the assault captured by a witness who wants to remain anonymous goes viral after being shared by Anton Philipus Jacobus Koen on Facebook.
  • 4 July 2023 – Ipid and SAPS begin investigation to track down the VIP unit in the video and the victims. Mashatile’s office confirms members of his protection unit were involved.
  • 5 July 2023 – SA National Defence Union confirms that the victims are SANDF members and one is a member of the union. SAPS confirms that a case against the officers attached to Mashatile’s security unit has been opened. Ipid conducts interviews with the victims and SAPS members.
  • 5 July 2023 – Koen receives a threatening message on his cellphone via SMS, which reads as follows: “Good day Mr Koen, we do not take kind (sic) to the footage that you supplied the media. You have made a lot of enemies in specialised units. We will deal with you…”
  • 10 July 2023 – The officers are placed on suspension with full pay.
  • 23 July 2023 – The officers hand themselves over to Ipid.
  • 24 July 2023 – The officers make their first appearance in court for a bail application.
  • 26 July 2023 – The officers make a second appearance in court to continue their bail application.
  • 27 July 2023 – The case is postponed to 1 August 2023. DM

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