Cops shove journalists and tell them to 'voetsek'

SHIELD: The head and face of virginia Tiny Mokopo are covered to avoid the glare of cameras at the Sebokeng magistrate's court yesterday. Pic. Antonio Muchave. 13/12/2007. © Sowetan.
SHIELD: The head and face of virginia Tiny Mokopo are covered to avoid the glare of cameras at the Sebokeng magistrate's court yesterday. Pic. Antonio Muchave. 13/12/2007. © Sowetan.

Ntwaagae Seleka

Ntwaagae Seleka

A war of words erupted between police and journalists at the Sebokeng magistrate's court where a former dormitory mistress at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls appeared yesterday.

The police pushed and shoved photographers away when they tried to capture pictures of Virginia Tiny Makopo, 27, who is accused of abusing children at the private school.

The scene unfolded outside the courtroom where photographers were waiting for Makopo, following her brief appearance.

The heavily armed police who were escorting Makopo told the journalists to voetsek and called them dogs.

Makopo's face was shielded from the barrage of cameras by police who covered her head with a brown towel.

With her family in tow, police turned and walked her away from the direction of the eager lensmen.

After the jostling between police and reporters, Makopo was eventually whisked away in a black Mazda parked at the back of the court.

It was the same policeman who drove her in the same Mazda when she first appeared on November 5.

Disappointed local and foreign photographers watched helplessly as the ring of policemen around Makopo ensured they did not get pictures.

Makopo is out on R3000 bail, under strict conditions.

Makopo faces 13 counts of assault, indecent assault and crimen injuria of girls at the Henley-on-Klip, Vaal, school.

Earlier, inside the court, prosecutor Alta Niewehoudt ordered Makopo to remove a cap that had obscured her face.

Makopo's arrest forced Winfrey to beef up security at the school and led to the suspension of the headmistress, Nomvuyo Nzamane.

Makopo is expected to appear again in court on January 16.

l Gauteng SAPS spokesman, Superintendent Lungelo Dlamini said he will inquire from the investigating officer why police barred photographers from taking Makopo's pictures and comment later.

Freedom of Expression Institute executive director Jane Duncan said the police's conduct was out of order.

"It violates the ability of the media to report on the case as it unfolds.

"The Criminal Procedure Act only prohibits the identity of minors and complainants in sexual assault cases and does not apply to [this particular] accused," said Duncan.

X