/ 7 February 2006

Laundry murder accused granted bail

Chaos erupted outside the Vereeniging Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday morning when six people accused of murdering three laundry workers were released on bail.

Magistrate W Ewarts told the packed gallery that the state had a weak case and virtually no evidence.

This elicited loud shouts from the gallery, with family and friends of the murdered workers — Jocelyn Lesito, Constance Moeletsi and Victoria Ndweni — storming out of the courtroom.

Charl Colyn, the owner of Protea Dry Cleaners where the three were murdered; his daughter Isabel; son-in-law Jacques Smit; and family friend Ruan Swanepoel were each released on R5 000 bail.

A previous bail application by these four was unsuccessful.

Gardeners Samuel Mzizi and Jacob Dlamini were released on R2 000 bail each. The two were allegedly assaulted while in police custody, which led to a ”forced confession” from Dlamini implicating the other four accused.

Their lawyer, Isabel Volschenk, made the accusation during an appearance last week.

With the admissibility and legitimacy of the confessions called into question, senior prosecutor advocate Christo Roberts said the state had no evidence against the four.

He also submitted that no grounds existed to keep the accused in custody.

The three workers were put into a large washing machine, tied up and strangled on the night of January 3, in what has been seen as a racially motivated killing following a labour dispute.

”I think we must all realise that there are certain rules and principles,” Ewarts told the unruly spectators. ”The right to bail is guaranteed in our Constitution and quite rightly, as the state does not have a good case.”

Emotions ran high outside the courtroom, with black protesters dancing in the streets and throwing stones at the cars of family members of the white accused.

Women wept openly and Lesito’s mother, Caroline, was swept away by relatives, hunched over in grief.

Moeletsi’s mother, Dorothy, sat sobbing on a pavement. ”There is still apartheid and racism and I will teach my children to hate white people,” she said.

Meanwhile, protesters hurled profanities and racist comments at journalists.

In contrast, a smiling Charl Colyn winked at family members as he was led out of the dock.

The case was postponed to March 7 for further investigation. — Sapa