'Justice system protecting killers'

GRIEVING: Flora Tapala, Daniel's mother, and his widow Simphiwe Masilela outside the Middelburg magistrate's court yesterday. PIc. McKeed Kotlolo. 28/05/08. © Sowetan.
GRIEVING: Flora Tapala, Daniel's mother, and his widow Simphiwe Masilela outside the Middelburg magistrate's court yesterday. PIc. McKeed Kotlolo. 28/05/08. © Sowetan.

McKeed Kotlolo

McKeed Kotlolo

The family of a trade unionist allegedly killed by whites while on duty in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, yesterday condemned the justice system for "protecting" his killers.

Jimmy Tapala, 34, of Mokopane in Limpopo, was a security guard at the Middelburg Country Club where he was allegedly attacked by three white men on March 15.

Tapala died in a Pretoria hospital on April 27.

Two of his attackers, father and son Martin, 52, and Jaco Pretorius, 22, of Golfsig in Middelburg, appeared briefly in the local magistrate's court.

The third suspect is still at large.

The father and son suspects were in the dock for about five minutes. Martin's R1000 bail was extended while his son Jaco is out on warning.

They were not asked to plead and their case was postponed to September 17 for further investigation.

The men immediately sneaked out through the back door to avoid demonstrating union members and Tapala's family at the main entrance.

This angered the dead man's widow, Simphiwe Masilela, 31, her mother-in-law Flora Tapala, his brothers Daniel and Andries, who had come all the way from Bethal, Mokopane and Pretoria, respectively.

The demonstrators' and families' efforts to see any of the alleged killers were in vain.

The chanting crowd was shocked to learn that the case had already been postponed and that the accused had sneaked out of the court, allegedly with the help of a white officer.

A visibly angry Daniel said: "We came all the way to see my brother's killers and were told that they had already left.

"They were brave when they attacked him, but now they are afraid to face those they have hurt."

The chairman of the Middelburg branch of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Josia Mthimunye, said racism in the country would not stop as long as "some people were treated differently from others".

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