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Joshlin Smith accused bail hearing sees violence flare, police attacked outside court

Joshlin Smith accused bail hearing sees violence flare, police attacked outside court
Police used stun grenades and teargas to disperse a crowd pelting stones and attempting to break through a barbed wire barricade outside the Vredenburg Magistrates Court. (Photo: Supplied)

The court proceedings for the accused, who face charges of human trafficking and kidnapping of six-year-old Joshlin Smith, were preceded by violent clashes between police and protesters. A 29-year-old female police constable was hit in the face and rushed to hospital with blood flowing from her wound.

On Wednesday, a large crowd attempted to remove the barbed wire preventing them from entering Vredenburg Magistrates Court. They pelted police with stones, prompting police to fire stun grenades and teargas.

The crowd’s desire to get inside the court grew even stronger after police removed Patriotic Alliance influencer Ashley Sauls from the media contingent covering the case and prevented him from doing a live feed from inside the court. Sauls, a TikTok political influencer, was granted permission to record proceedings for the platform last week.

Protesters chanted, “Where were the cops when Joshlin went missing, where were the cops when we searched for him in the early hours, and why did SAPS treat them like animals by barricading them in?”

In the ensuing chaos, a female police constable suffered a facial wound and was immediately transported to the nearest hospital.

Joshlin went missing on 19 February near Tsitsiratsitsi, Middelpos, Saldanha. Her mother, Racquel Smith, stated that the last time she saw her daughter was when she left for work at approximately 8am the same day. She left the little girl with her boyfriend, Jacquin Appollis. Joshlin was not present when Smith returned home around 5pm. However, a week-long search produced no results.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Police scale down search for six-year-old Joslin Smith after a week with no leads.”

The four accused, Racquel Chantel Smith, also known as Kelly, the mother of missing Joshlin (6), her boyfriend, Appollis, Steven van Rhyn, and Phumza Sigaqa, face charges of kidnapping and human trafficking stemming from Joshlin’s disappearance. Joshlin is still missing, and the search continues.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Joshlin’s mother, three others in dock, police ‘a step closer’ to finding her”

Abandoned bail

The four accused eventually appeared before Magistrate Yoliso Sipoyo after 10. The case was on the roll for bail information.

In her address to the court, state prosecutor Advocate Aradhana Heeramun stated that Joshlin’s mother along with, Appollis, and Van Rhyn had abandoned their bail bids.

Joshlin Smith

Racquel Chantel Smith, aka Kelly Smith, during the Joshlin Smith disappearance case at Vredenburg Magistrate’s Court on 7 March, 2024 in Vredenburg, South Africa. (Photo: Brenton Geach/ Gallo Images)

The case against Sigaqa, Heeramun informed the court, has been dropped because the State lacks evidence linking her to the incident. Heeramum further informed the court that they are following up on new leads in this case, so the case was remanded for further investigation.

Reagen Allen, Western Cape MEC for police oversight and community safety, condemned the incident in which a 29-year-old female constable was taken to hospital following violence outside court.

“I can confirm that in a conversation with provincial police commissioner Thembisile Patekile that we will be analysing video footage that whoever threw stones were ultimately held accountable. That officer could have lost her eye,” Allen said.

He added that the Western Cape Government has taken note that the charges against Sigaqa have been dropped. However, this may change if new information becomes available, he said.

“Our main concern remains to ensure that Joshlin is returned home unharmed. That she is safe and reunited with her siblings and extended family,” he added.

Crowd uncontrollable

On why the barbed wire was rolled out in front of court, Patekile explained that during last week’s court appearance, the crowd became uncontrollable, prompting the action for safety reasons.

Patekile explained the events that led to the violent clashes.

“What began was that people were attempting to remove the barbed wire and gain access to the court. Unprovoked, people began attacking police. I have directed that we investigate these videos with the goal of making an arrest because we have opened a case of public violence.”

Joshlin Smith trial

Police used stun grenades and teargas to disperse a crowd pelting stones and attempting to break through a barbed wire barricade outside the Vredenburg Magistrates Court. (Photo: Supplied)

The incident, he said, “gives SAPS another chance to see if it is really okay to come to a small place like this; we understand the people’s outrage; and for a postponement, we will talk to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) about whether there is another way to ensure appearance is still done but in a very coordinated manner”.

On the outcome of the forensic test of bloodstained clothes and a knife discovered near where Joshlin disappeared, he stated: “Forensic evidence is still being investigated, so SAPS cannot comment on this. SAPS cannot rule out further arrests, adding that if more arrests are necessary, so be it.”

The provincial commissioner dismissed claims that Joshlin was allegedly sold for R20,000, saying, “We don’t know about R20,000. All we know is that Joshlin is missing. That’s a fact. The ultimate goal is to find Joshlin.”

Old wounds ripped open

Amongst those in court were the family of Montescha Kekana, who disappeared in Diazville, Saldanha on 21 May 2009. She was 10 years old at the time. She was last seen walking with accused Cecil Kockrell towards Tabakbaai beach where she was purportedly raped and strangled. Her body was never found. In November 2021 Cecil Kockrell was sentenced to 15 years for murder and life in prison for rape.

Montescha Kekana disappeared on 21 May 2009 in Saldanha and was never found.

Following court proceedings, a family member, Natanya Kekana, told Daily Maverick that the family is still heartbroken that Montescha’s body, which has been missing for 15 years, has not been found.

“Joshlin’s case is the second incident in Saldanha. This is why Saldanha residents feel as if they were shocked to the core 15 years ago and again today.

“We as a family want Joshlin’s family to find her because we didn’t get the satisfaction of having our child back. We don’t want the authorities to fail the Joshlin family like they did us. The Joshlin case rips open all old wounds,” she said.

Natanya Kekana

Natanya Kekana a family member of Montescha Kekana who went missing in 2009 in Saldanha Bay. (Photo: Vincent Cruywagen)

More information

Eric Ntabazalila, Western Cape NPA regional spokesperson, confirmed that there is currently no evidence linking Sigaqa to the incident.

“Concerning the ongoing investigation, the NPA informed the court that we have received additional information, particularly regarding the child’s whereabouts. Investigators should follow up on that.

“Investigators must also obtain witness statements and conduct cell phone analysis on their cellphones. The NPA’s position is that if the three accused later come to apply for bail, the NPA will oppose it.”

He reiterated more charges could be added as the investigation unfolds. The matter has been postponed for further investigation to 13 May. DM

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