/ 14 March 2006

Three appear in court for baby Matlala’s murder

The case against three men, accused of murdering four-year-old Makgabo Matlala and gang-raping her 57-year-old nanny, was on Tuesday postponed in the Vereeniging Magistrate’s Court to March 23 for a bail hearing.

All five benches at court number two were full of people from Lenasia and Vereeniging, but none of the Matlala family, nor family of the accused, were seen.

Accused number one was wearing a green jersey with a visible gash on his head. Accused number two was wearing a grey and black jersey, while accused number three wore a black jersey and had a gold ring in his right ear.

Most of the people in the packed courtroom stretched their heads to see the three men, who were arrested at Weilers Farm south of Johannesburg in an early morning pounce by police on Sunday.

The court was so full that magistrate Chris Eksteen warned that he would not allow people to stand while the court was in process.

The names of the accused cannot be revealed as an identity parade was expected to be conducted on Friday.

Eksteen said the three were facing very serious charges of murder, rape and robbery.

The three appeared without any legal representation, and when asked by the magistrate whether they wanted to apply for legal aid, two of the men replied without any hesitation: ”Yes.”

Accused number three said he did not want to apply for assistance but would represent himself. Eksteen again posed the question to accused number three and he again replied that he wanted no help.

While the court was in process a group of about 30 women from a Lenasia women’s rights group, Nisa, chanted anti-abuse slogans outside the court.

Nisa spokesperson Grace Masheke said they came to protest in solidarity with the Matlala family.

”We are here to create awareness on women and child abuse. We want to see justice in this matter. This can not be tolerated,” Masheke said.

Little Matlala, the granddaughter of Transvaal Judge President Bernard Ngoepe, was murdered at her Lenasia home last week during a robbery. Police still cannot confirm whether she was strangled. Her funeral will be held in Lenasia on Wednesday. — Sapa