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Police at the Sebokeng magistrate's court in the Vaal watched helplessly yesterday as journalists tussled with relatives of a woman accused of indecently assaulting children at the prestigious Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.
But the police stepped in and stopped journalists from taking pictures of Virgina Makopo, whisking her away from the court.
Makopo, 27, arrived in court with a police escort. The officers shielded her as she fled to Sebokeng police station nearby to hide.
Superintendent Nthabiseng Mazibuko had earlier told reporters that it was the police's duty to protect Makopo because the court had ordered that her picture should not be published.
But Mazibuko later changed her tune and said Makopo was out on bail, and so "it was no longer the officers' duty to hide her identity as they had at previous court appearances".
"I apologise for all the inconvenience and you may take her pictures outside the courtroom," she said.
Makopo's name was called several times while she was still hiding at the police station. She later appeared - with her head covered in a red towel. She sat in the dock with her face still covered with the towel. Friends and family advised her not to remove it.
Makopo, who is out on R30000 bail, is accused of 13 counts of assault, indecent assault and crimen injuria while she was dormitory parent at the Henley-on-Klip school in Meyerton.
Magistrate Betty Mahalelo presided over the brief hearing yesterday and set the trial date for April 21.
After the hearing, Makopo's relatives tussled with journalists as other friends and family members screamed in the corridors, disrupting court proceedings.
The shoving between journalists and Makopo's family members attracted even more spectators, including police, who stood by passively.
"Remove that towel. We want to see her," shouted an onlooker.
Makopo was escorted to a car parked outside the court.