Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
THE Magistrates' Commission is hearing allegations that a farmer accused of attempted murder invited his alleged victim into a magistrate's office and offered him a R100000 bribe.
Now police and the commission are investigating Meyerton magistrate Marius Serfontein after accusations that he had protected Derick Steyn, infamous for terrorising farm workers.
The investigations follow reports of how Steyn, an associate of Serfontein, was released from jail without a formal bail hearing after being charged with assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The magistrate owns a farm near Steyn's.
Police had resisted releasing the farmer because he had previous convictions for assault.
Steyn allegedly attacked his domestic worker Thembi Ndlovu after she quit her job.
Ndlovu's lawyer, Godfrey Machimana, has successfully applied for the case to be transferred to the Vereeniging magistrate's court after Steyn was freed from jail.
Machimana and Ndlovu were called to testify before the commission in Pretoria last week. The lawyer said he became aware of Serfontein's relationship with Steyn when he accompanied Ndlovu to lay the assault charge.
"Inspector Tladi said he was not comfortable with Steyn appearing in Meyerton because it looked as if there was a relationship between him and magistrate Serfontein. He promised to deny Steyn bail because he had previous convictions.
"Nearly 30 minutes later Tladi called, saying he had been put under pressure to release Steyn. He said magistrate Serfontein threatened to go into the police station and have him released on warning," Machimana said.
An hour later Steyn was out on bail, the commission heard.
Machimana dropped another bombshell: "Steyn was once charged with attempted murder . It is alleged that Serfontein personally went to the police station and released him on bail ."
Constable Magauta Serathi of the Meyerton police said yesterday that they were trying to reinstate the case after it was mysteriously withdrawn.
"According to the affidavit, Steyn called the complainant into Serfontein's office and offered him a R100000 bribe in front of the magistrate. The complainant then spoke to a prosecutor who told him the case was too serious to be withdrawn," said Serathi.
The case was later dropped after a contested withdrawal statement was filed.
"We sent Serfontein's and a police officer's handwriting for forensic testing because the complainant is adamant that the withdrawal statement filed in the docket was not made or signed by him."
Serfontein said he had been instructed not to comment.