/ 1 August 2023

VIP assault accused granted R10 000 bail

Vip Officers
Eight VIP Protection Unit members at the Randburg Magistrates’ Court on 24 July 2023. (Photo by Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

The eight police officers accused of assaulting three military trainees on a Johannesburg highway in July were granted R10 000 bail each with conditions after the state placed its case “prematurely” on the court roll, the Randburg magistrate’s court ruled on Tuesday. 

The officers from the police’s protection and security services unit — who were part of Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s security detail — were ordered not to contact state witnesses or interfere with the state’s investigation. 

Phineas Molefo Boshielo, Shadrack Molekatlane Kojoana, Johannes Matome Mampuru, Pomso Joseph Mofokeng, Harmans Madumetja Ramokhonami, Churchill Mpakamaseni Mkhize, Lesibana Aggrie Rambau and Moses Fhatuwani Tshidada face 12 charges, including assault, malicious damage to property, discharging a firearm, reckless driving, intimidation and defeating the ends of justice.

All the charges fall under schedule 1 offences which means the onus is on the state to show it is not in the interest of justice for the accused to be released on bail.

But the magistrate ruled it would be a travesty of justice should the accused be denied bail.

The court found the state’s case was premature and “weak”. The state failed to prove its argument that the accused would intimidate victims if they were released on bail. 

Opposing bail last week, state prosecutor Elize le Roux argued the release of the accused would instil further fear in their victims, who, according to the state, continue to be concerned for their safety. Although the fourth witness was not forced out of the vehicle at the time the assault took place, the state submitted that the witness “fears for her safety” because the blue VW Polo in the video is registered in her name. 

The witness is in the process of reregistering her number plate. 

The court ruled the state did not provide evidence to prove the link between the accused and the threat allegations it submitted. 

According to the state’s affidavit, the person who captured the incident on video anonymously sent it to a Mr Koen, who in turn shared it on Facebook and with senior police officials. 

On the same day Mr Koen received a message threatening him: “Good day Mr Koen, we do not take kind to the footage that you supplied to the media. You made a lot of enemies in specialised units. We will deal with you …”

Subsequent to the threat, Koen, who is now a state witness, opened a case of intimidation at the Benoni police station. 

During the bail proceedings, the accused maintained they were not aware of the threatening message sent to Koen. They submitted that should they be released on bail, they have no intention of approaching any of the victims.

The state requested at least a month to determine the origin of the video clip sent to Koen. 

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian after the court ruling, Robbie Raburabu, the national spokesperson for the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) leading the investigation, maintained there was a strong case. 

“Where we are, we know we have a strong case,” said Raburabu. 

In its affidavit, the state claimed the investigation into the incident “is in an advanced stage with vital leads that will need to be followed up”. Commenting on the investigation, Raburabu said Ipid has until 27 September and “whatever needs to be done before then will be done”. 

Raburabu said Ipid is not concerned about the accused being released on bail, “as long as they understand we cannot allow police officers to behave the way they do as if they run the country, the country is not run by the police, it is run by democracy. They are not above the law.”