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Magistrate blasts State’s ‘weak’ case, grants bail to Mashatile’s VIP Protection Unit officers

Magistrate blasts State’s ‘weak’ case, grants bail to Mashatile’s VIP Protection Unit officers
iStock | Deputy President Paul Mashatile. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

Eight members of Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s VIP security team who are accused of assaulting motorists on a Johannesburg highway were each granted R10,000 bail on Tuesday – despite the magistrate expressing concerns over their aggression and abuse of power. Her ruling was based on the State evidence before her, which she said was weak.

‘The State’s case against the eight accused of assaulting motorists on the Gauteng highway is ‘weak and frail’, it was put on the court roll prematurely,” Randburg Magistrates’ Court magistrate Hlengiwe Mkhabisi said on Tuesday when the eight VIP Protection Unit officers charged with assaulting four people on the N1 in Johannesburg appeared in court for further bail hearing.

They were granted fixed bail of R10,000 each on condition that they do not intimidate or try to contact the State witnesses in any way. 

In supporting affidavits to be granted bail, filed last week, the accused said they could afford at least R1,000 each. 

Mashatile's VIP officers

Some of the eight accused VIP Protection Unit members in the Randburg Magistrates’ Court on 24 July 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

They had been in police custody – on 12 charges including 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 – after handing themselves over to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate on 23 July 2023.

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

Mkhabisi expressed concern about the accused’s aggression and abuse of power, as seen in a video clip of the incident:

“We as a community can never trust the accused or applicants that they will protect our interests. They allegedly brutally attacked the complainants and were not aware that their actions were being captured by a concerned, law-abiding citizen. They were daring and did not attempt to hide their identity. The bravado displayed by the applicants is impunity… Common sense should have prevailed that there was no threat or risk to the deputy president’s convoy. Should the accused have spoken to the complainants without being aggressive or using force they would have known the occupants of the Polo Vivo vehicle were military trainees.” 

cop highway assault

Some of the eight VIP Protection Unit officers at the Sandton Police Station on Sunday, 22 July 2023, where they were charged with assaulting four people on the N1 in Johannesburg. (Photo: Leon Sadiki)

Mkhabisi added it would be unjust to keep the accused in custody based on the State’s speculation and having not established what role each of the accused played through the identification parade or determining who sent a threatening message to Anton Koen, the security expert who first shared the video clip.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Mashatile’s VIP protection unit members in highway assault case must remove masks – magistrate

If the State had done a thorough investigation, she continued, maybe there would have been a ruling.

“Based on the evidence presented by the State, it is this court’s finding that the State failed to place evidence that demonstrated that the interests of justice do not permit the release of the applicants on bail. The State has failed to do an identification parade to determine the role of each of the accused. It also failed to link the accused as the persons behind the threatening and intimidating message that Mr Koen received. Even the investigating officer stated in his affidavit that he was not able to trace the sender of the message because a burner phone was used to send the message. Therefore, the court will fix bail on behalf of the accused, taking into account that the charges that the applicants are facing are serious and should they be convicted they face a lengthy term of imprisonment.”

The accused are: Shadrack Molekatlane Kojana, Johannes Matome Mampuru, Posmo Joseph Mofokeng, Harmans Madumetja Ramokhonami, Phineas Molefo Boshielo, Churchill Mpakamaseni Mkhize, Lesiba Aggrie Ramabu and Moses Fhatuwani Tshidada.The case has been postponed until 27 September 2023. DM

Timeline of events:

  • 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.
  • 1 August 2023 – The officers are granted R10 000 bail.

Also See the report by Carte Blanche. here:  DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    That magistrate is an idiot. To hinge the whole hearing on who sent the message to Koen is at best disingenuous. The State’s case is obvious. At the very least, deny them bail to prevent interference with the critical witnesses. Anything else is in effect letting them off. Ridiculous.

    • Jennifer Hughes says:

      Sounds to me like the judge is following the law, just as our police officers should. Would be helpful if our prosecution could get serious though.

    • Jane Crankshaw says:

      I think that being an idiot is a pre- requisite for anyone dealing with the government these days!!! To be a member of the ANC you have to be an idiot!

  • Rory Short says:

    The assault was a cultural thing I would guess, because the detail members come from a culture where it is acceptable for those in authority, or their representatives, to practice violence against others.

  • Alison Immelman Immelman says:

    Just want to know about the ‘burner phones’? The rest of us are rica-ed and fica-ed to within an inch of our lives.

  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    How convenient, tha SAPS ensuring protection of ‘their own’. Sickening and this will simply fall through the cracks and disappear. It would be interesting to find out what conversations have been had with their COs at the military bases to prevent these trainess from speaking out, to anyone.

    • Henry Coppens says:

      Exactly, The State’s case was deliberately made week to ‘ensure protection fo their own’.

    • Henry Coppens says:

      The conversation: ‘Don’t worry guys, we’ll see you through. I’ll talk to my connections at the NPA, so that you just get a wrap over the knuckles”

  • Allauddin Thobani Thobani says:

    Release names of the investigators and prosecutors of NPA

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Detectives instructed to not do their work properly?most probably.

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    Ridiculous! A four year old could identify these thugs with that video footage. I hope the victims and witnesses stay safe. This feels like a miscarriage of justice in the making.

  • Ryckard Blake says:

    “Should the accused have spoken to the complainants without being aggressive or using force they would have known the occupants of the Polo Vivo vehicle were military trainees.”
    The magistrate seems to be suggesting that it’s OK to drag about, beat up, and viciously kick ordinary citizens into unconsciousness, but that it would be an entirely different thing to abuse military trainees that way. Can anyone explain to me the workings of that scrambled mind?

    Why does she deem it necessary to identify which of the 8 accused did what, when NOT ONE of them reported the crime at earliest? Surely. whether being an actual kicker, or a non-constraining looker-on, ALL of those identified as being present at the scene of the outrage are collectively guilty?
    Who would have assigned HER to this case? Judge President of the Gauteng Division, Dunstan Mlambo?

  • Garth Kruger says:

    these guys are going to get off.

  • Peter Dexter says:

    I suspect the weak case constructed by the state was intentional (but possibly also due to the “hollowing out” of the NPA. What percentage of police officers involved in violent crime are successfully convicted? I would expect this to be a very small number. More importantly it further erodes the already tarnished credibility of SAPS and our government where fiduciary responsibility and accountability are unknown concepts.

  • Frank Fox says:

    It is interesting how a headline colours your view of an article. The headline here is Magistrate slams NPA’s weak case, in News24 it was Magistrate says “vip cops booked prematurely”. Both report the same court case. What is reported is that the magistrate said the decision to prosecute was hasty. This decision seems to have been based on the video evidence before finding the person who took the video. It would be a shame if they got off on this technicality. The video evidence is very clear, and how does this differ from evidence captured on a security or traffic camera where there is no “human witness” behind the camera? Sounds like the Magistrate may have a bias but perhaps that is how reporting affects perception.

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