couple wrongfully held
Maria Mnisi and her partner Phineas Johnson yesterday shared the dock with their former employer, Fanie Hyman, when a charge against them of violating a corpse was dropped in the Koppies magistrate's court.
The couple had allegedly been forced by their employer to exhume the remains of their one-month-old baby after they resigned from Greenlands farm near Koppies in the Free State in February.
The farmer drove them 300km across the provincial border to Pretoria, where they originally came from, and "dumped" them at his scrap yard.
The couple sat in the back of the bakkie with the body while Hyman, who gave the exhumation order, sat alone in the front.
The couple was later arrested and charged with violating a corpse when they went to report the matter to Zandfontein police in Pretoria. They were released on R100 bail each. Hyman was also charged and given R1000 bail.
Much to the elation of the packed courtroom the prosecutor, Adele Lekgetho, announced that the charges against the couple had been dropped since they had been wrongfully arrested.
"We were in consultation with the directorate of public prosecution in Bloemfontein on Friday and it was decided that the charges against the couple should be dropped," Lekgetho said.
Magistrate Cornelius Johannes de la Rey ordered the couple to step out of the dock, which they shared with their former employer.
Lekgetho said more charges would be added to Hyman's existing charge. The case would resume on June4 for trial.
Outside the community sang in support of the couple. They handed over a memorandum demanding that a black magistrate preside over the case.
Mnisi said she was grateful for the support they had received during their ordeal.
Mothusi Lepheyane of the South African Human Rights Commission in the Free State said they were happy with the outcome of the case. He said the farmer and police should compensate the couple for the humiliation they had been subjected to.
Lepheyane said they would monitor the case against Hyman to the end. He said the commission was unhappy with the labour inspectors in the Free State.
During the march Ngwathe mayor Moeketsi Moshodi committed himself to educating farm workers about their rights.