The Ventersdorp Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday extended the detention of two black farm workers accused of killing Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) leader Eugene Terre’Blanche after a bail hearing was postponed.
Magistrate Magaola Foso adjourned the case to May 10 to allow more time for police investigations and a bail application.
“You are in custody until then,” Foso told the elder of the two suspects in court.
The lawyer for Chris Mahlangu (28) asked the court to postpone his client’s bail hearing to May 10, while the lawyer for the other accused, a 15-year-old minor, said he had withdrawn his client’s application for bail.
Terre’Blanche, the founder of the white separatist AWB, was bludgeoned and hacked to death on April 3 at his farm outside Ventersdorp.
The killing has brought South Africa’s long-standing racial tensions to the surface, two months before the country is due to host the Soccer World Cup.
Police in full riot gear guarded the entrance to the courthouse, following last week’s clashes between white and black crowds at the suspects’ first court appearance.
On Wednesday, a crowd of residents including AWB supporters, gathered outside the court and dispersed peacefully after the decision was announced.
The accused face charges of murder, injuring Terre’Blanche’s dignity for allegedly exposing his genitals, house-breaking with intent to rob, and aggravated robbery.
Initial reports indicated the killing had been sparked by a wage dispute. Police have since said they are also investigating the possibility that it was a sex crime, after Mahlangu’s lawyer said his client claimed that Terre’Blanche had tried to sodomise him.
But the lawyer, Puna Moroko, backtracked on that version of events on Wednesday, saying he no longer planned to pursue it as a defence.
“That one we have abandoned. That one, when I consulted with him [Mahlangu], it didn’t make sense to me,” he said after Wednesday’s hearing.
“There is no politics involved,” Moroko said. “Terre’blanche attacked his employees and they retaliated.”
The lawyer for the 15-year-old said his client had not indicated the murder was sexually related.
“I have no personal knowledge of those reports. I don’t know where that report comes from, but certainly not from me nor from my client,” Zola Majavu said.
Prosecutors on Wednesday asked the judge to move forward with Mahlangu’s bail application, but Moroko asked for more time to establish his client’s place of residence.
He said Mahlangu had been living with his paternal uncle prior to starting work on Terre’Blanche’s farm in November, and could return there if granted bail.
Majavu said he had withdrawn his client’s bail application because the minor was being held in juvenile detention, not police custody, and might have to fear for his safety if he were released.
“He is comfortable where he is currently being kept,” Majavu said.
Wednesday’s hearing was the first in the case to be held in public.
The suspects’ initial appearance was held in camera to protect the identity of the 15-year-old, but the withdrawal of his bail application meant Mahlangu’s hearing could go forward in public. — AFP