/ 12 March 2013

Court denies bail to officers accused of killing Macia

Magistrate Sam Makamu said he felt it was not in the interest of justice to grant the murder accused bail.
Magistrate Sam Makamu said he felt it was not in the interest of justice to grant the murder accused bail.

Magistrate Sam Makamu on Tuesday said he felt it was not in the interest of justice to grant them bail. The matter would resume on April 12.

In delivering his ruling, Makamu said there were potential risks that Daveyton residents could try to seek revenge on the accused. He expressed concern at the prospect of sending the men back to their homes in this "unfavourable" climate.

However, the men's financial security and that of their families could suffer if they remained in jail because it was up to their employer to decide whether or not to pay them while in custody.

"This is a formal bail application, not a process to establish whether accused are guilty or not guilty," said Makamu.

None of the applicants indicated their role in Macia's arrest, except some who admitted subduing and removing him from the scene.

Macia was filmed being tied to the back of a police van and dragged along a street in Daveyton on February 26. Macia was found dead in the local police station's holding cells several hours later.

Community's actions are questioned
The accused are Thamsanqa Ncema (35), Linda Sololo (56), Meshack Malele (45), Motome Walter Ramatlou (37), Percy Mnisi (26), Bongumusa Mdluli (25), Sipho Ngobeni (30), Lungisa Ewababa (31) and Bongani Kolisi (27).

Makamu outlined the questions the applicants needed to answer to receive bail. The state argued that their actions were violent, while the defence denied this.

Makamu questioned the community's actions in trying to help Macia. "Why did the community not help police … Or did police display an aggression unacceptable to the community?"

He read out the amount each of the accused could afford if they were granted bail, ranging from R1 000 to R2 000.

While the defence claimed the accused would not interfere with evidence and witnesses, Makamu said the state had indicated some witnesses were their colleagues in the police. He said it would be easy for them to get hold of these witnesses.

Evidence lost or hidden
It also appeared evidence had been lost or hidden. Macia's shoes were never found. The pants he was wearing at the time of the attack were found between a safe and police cells, said Makamu.

Earlier, prosecutor December Mthimunye argued that police station documents showed the accused had "tried to cover their tracks".

"He [Macia] was charged at 12.12am [on February 27], after his death, for assault and grievous bodily harm," he said.

"A lot has been said about Mr Macia … He is now turning in his grave," Mthimunye said.

On Monday, another member of the defence team, Lokhimbar Dikatope, said Macia was involved in an accident days before his arrest, in which five children were killed.

Mthimunye said the state had police statements supporting its case.

"We also have police statements that implicate the accused. They feared for their safety," he said.

He said the charges against the accused had yet to be finalised.

Macia resisted arrest
Earlier, defence lawyer Sam Leso said media reports and the footage of Macia being dragged did not present an accurate account of events. He claimed Macia resisted arrest and began fighting with two of the accused police officers.

"Three more [police] came but he remained obstinate. Because of his violence, three more [police officers] came," Leso said.

"He kept on resisting and fighting."

One of the accused, Ramatlou, tried to lift Macia to prevent him from being injured as he was dragged by a police van.

Leso argued the accused should be granted bail because prisons were overcrowded and to protect the rights of their children. He said the police officers were breadwinners for their families and provided protection for their children.

Pistorius's bail comparison
Leso and Elias Tshole both made mention of the fact that murder-accused athlete Oscar Pistorius was recently granted bail, in a case that drew significant public and media attention. Makamu said the Pistorius matter had nothing to do with the case at hand.

Leso told the court Sololo had hypertension and initially his condition had "seriously deteriorated" in custody.

"Keeping him in custody might be dangerous to his health."

Leso also criticised the Benoni Taxi Association for not helping police.

"[The taxi association] assisted their member [Macia] to evade justice," he said. – Sapa