State confident it has ‘overwhelming evidence’ against VIP cops in N1 assault

Defence feels case is weak, rejects accusation that clients have made threats

Eight VIP protection unit members appear in the Randburg magistrate's court.
Eight VIP protection unit members appear in the Randburg magistrate's court.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

The state insists there is “overwhelming evidence” placing eight arrested VIP protection officers at the scene of an assault on the N1 highway in Johannesburg earlier this month, but the defence labels the state's case “weak”. 

Shadrack Molekatlane Kojoana, Johannes Matome Mampuru, Pomso Joseph Mofokeng, Harmans Madumetja Ramokhonami, Phineas Molefo Boshielo, Churchill Mpakamiseni Mkhize, Lesibana Aggrie Rambau and Moses Fhatuwani Tshidada have been appearing in the Randburg magistrates court for their bail applications. 

Yesterday proceedings resumed with a challenge from the defence over the admissibility of the viral video and threatening text sent to the witness.

The state had moved to submit both as “real evidence” in line with the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, but the defence raised a challenge to this, especially since the court was told the person who took the video was “too scared to come forward”. Additionally, it was shared anonymously with the witness, who in turn posted it on his Facebook page, and with police officers.

They have offered guarantees they will not interfere with further investigations or with the witnesses. They have also denied having any ties with a threatening text message sent to a state witness, who cannot be named in terms of a court order.

The defence argued that because the person was unknown, this raises questions about its integrity.

The defence also questioned if admitting the video into evidence would not be more for the state's benefit as they would use the opportunity to identify and link the officers to those in the footage in the absence of an identity parade.

The state moved to clarify that it did know the person's identity but added he had opted to “remain anonymous”. It said it was unnecessary to deal with the issue of the video as there was “enough evidence” to assess the strength of the state's case without watching it. 

“I suppose we will not go through the exercise, I'm fine with that. I have seen what I have seen and can give judgment based on what I have seen and what has been presented before me,” magistrate Hlengiwe Mkhabisi ruled.

The focus then turned to the state's arguments regarding the threatening message sent to the witness and the “overwhelming evidence” linking the accused to the scene.

Prosecutor Eliza le Roux argued that the officers were part of a specialised unit with access to “resources that are specialised” and that they didn't operate in isolation. She raised that the witness got a threatening message the same day he shared the video to highlight this.

She said the state had other avenues to prove the video's reliability, even if the originator declined to testify as a state witness.

The state, she said, had direct evidence placing the men at the scene and that one of the accused had, in fact, placed himself at the scene while testifying in support of his bail requests and in the statement submitted to their command leader.

“There is overwhelming evidence that these officers were at the scene and that the complainants were victims.”

The defence moved to dismiss the state's claim that the accused had in any way intimidated the witness with a text message, saying there was no concrete evidence of this and that the state was speculating.

They argued that without a positive identification of the sender of the message, an inference could be made that just about anybody could have sent the text.

“It can be anybody trying to jeopardise the case,” Kojoana's lawyer, Mbhoni Mahlaule, argued.

Kojoana is accused one in the matter.

The matter was postponed to August 1 for bail judgment.


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