BLUE LIGHT BULLIES
Mashatile’s VIP officers show their faces for the first time, as court postpones case for trial in May next year
The assault trial of Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s eight VIP protection members has been rescheduled for May 2024. They stand accused of assaulting motorists on the N1 highway in Johannesburg. The eight officers, who for the first time appeared unmasked in court, have returned to work after being suspended for 60-days.
On Thursday the eight VIP members accused of assaulting motorists on the N1 highway in Johannesburg in July 2023 made a brief appearance at the Randburg Magistrate Court – and were for the first time not masked.
Read more in Daily Maverick:U-turn — ID parade set for VIP protection unit assault case involving Mashatile’s aides
The eight 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.
They face a range of charges, including pointing a firearm, malicious damage to property, reckless and negligent driving, assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm, attempt to defeat the administration of justice and assault by way of threats.
Their case was postponed for the trial set for 6–10 May 2024. State prosecutor, Elize Le Roux, committed to disclosing the case details no later than 6 January 2024. Meanwhile, National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane expressed confidence in the State’s evidence, despite previous criticism by the presiding magistrate of the case’s perceived weakness.
Initially, the Randburg magistrates’ court Magistrate Hlengiwe Mkhabisi blasted the State’s case and declared it weak, which led to the accused being granted R10,000 bail on 1 August 2023. This came after they had handed themselves to the Sandton Police Station on 22 July 2023.
Read in more Daily Maverick: Magistrate blasts State’s ‘weak’ case, grants bail to Mashatile’s VIP Protection Unit officers
At the time of arrest, the accused had been placed on suspension on full pay as of the 10 July 2023 following the assault incident on 2 July.
The VIP members have since returned to work but are not functional after their suspension reached the 60-day expiry date, according to the national police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe.
“In line with the SAPS disciplinary regulations, the suspension is for 60 days; thereafter the suspension is automatically lifted if the internal process is still under way. The officers are not operational and would be based in the office. The internal departmental investigation has been finalised and the divisional commissioner for protection security services has appointed functionaries to proceed with the disciplinary process,” she said.
As the legal proceedings continue, the accused remain out on bail, adding another layer to the unfolding narrative of this high-profile case. DM
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Problem officers’ in Mashatile’s VIP protection unit likely to get away with slap on wrist, say experts
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 on the same day, with some of the details omitted from the report, particularly the assault.
- 3 July 2023, evening – A 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 – The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) and SAPS begin an 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: “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 and the matter postponed until 27 September 2023.
- 27 September 2023 – Matter postponed to 9 November 2023.
- 9 November 2023 –Matter postponed to 6 May 2024 for trial .