Video footage will form the basis of the state’s case in prosecuting the four officers who allegedly killed Mthokozisi Ntumba, a bystander, during the heated student protests in Johannesburg last week. On Wednesday, at the Johannesburg magistrate’s court, Tshepiso Kekana, Boitumelo Motseothata, Madimetja Legodi and Victor Mohammed, made their first appearance after being nabbed on Monday for allegedly firing the fatal shots that killed Ntumba and severely wounded three other people.
The four officers, who were arrested by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, face a charge of murder, three counts of attempted murder and one of defeating the ends of justice. They will be detained at the Hillbrow police station for another week, when they are expected back in court on 24 March for their formal bail application.
A formal bail application is necessary in this case because state prosecutor Penuel Mhaga said the murder charge was a schedule-five offence, meaning it was serious and that the onus would be on the accused to prove that the interest of justice permits their release on bail.
The Mail & Guardian has learnt that video footage was viewed prior to the four officers appearing in court, when a decision was taken by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to enroll the matter.
This was confirmed by prosecutor Mhaga, who said the state relied on CCTV footage to formulate the charges against the accused.
“The CCTV footage has been sent to the [forensics] lab for analysis,” Mhaga told the court.
However, he revealed that the state had yet to receive the post mortem report, but expected it to be ready on 19 March, at which point it would be handed over to the defence.
“The state will not be relying on eyewitness statements for the purposes of the formal bail application. As you would know, forensics has a backlog, but we will try to facilitate [the analysis of ballistics] as soon as possible,” Mhaga added.
Phindi Mjonondwane, spokesperson for the Gauteng NPA, said after the court proceedings that the state could not reveal as yet whether the footage used for prosecution was the same video that had been circulating on social media since Ntumba’s death on 3 March.
“We are not yet at the stage to disclose the contents of the docket until we are trial-ready. We would like to keep our cards close to our chest,” Mjonondwane said.
Ntumba was shot after he was caught in a clash between police and University of the Witersrand students, who were protesting against the institution’s refusal to register students with historical debt.
On 1 March Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande announced that because the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was experiencing a shortfall, no funds would be available to support first-year students. Last week, however, the cabinet announced that it would reprioritise funding and that all NSFAS-qualifying students would be accommodated.
The four accused, who will all be detained at the Hillbrow police station, will return to court on 24 March.