Three suspects denied bail

NPA says accused forced pupils to eat space muffins

Amukelani Nyulunga (19), Ofentse Maluleka(21) and Katlego Matlala (29) appear at the Soshanguve Magistrate Court as they face 43 counts of attempted murder after selling cookies to learners aged between 7 and 13.
Amukelani Nyulunga (19), Ofentse Maluleka(21) and Katlego Matlala (29) appear at the Soshanguve Magistrate Court as they face 43 counts of attempted murder after selling cookies to learners aged between 7 and 13.
Image: Thulani Mbele

The state says the attempted murder charge against three men accused of selling alleged dagga-laced cookies to learners was appropriate because some of the children were threatened with assault if they refused to eat the cakes. 

It also emerged yesterday at the Shoshanguve magistrate's court where the suspects appeared for bail application that the state has added 15 more counts of attempted murder against the accused of selling muffins allegedly laced with dagga to primary school learners last month. 

The three accused – Amukelani Nyulunga, 19, Ofentse Maluleka, 21, and Katlego Matlala, 29, – are now facing 43 counts of attempted murder after 90 kids were rushed to medical care facilities after they suffered severe headaches, stomach cramps, dizziness and hallucinations while in their classrooms at Pulamadibogo Primary School in Soshanguve, Tshwane. 

The state initially charged the trio with 28 counts of attempted murder. 

State prosecutor Luyanda Nkwale opposed bail saying the suspects might temper with evidence or intimidate witnesses. 

Explaining the charge of attempted murder and reasons for bail to be opposed, Nkwale said: "The victims were threatened to buy and were told that if they buy one they will get one free, while some were forced to eat and threatened with assault if they didn't follow the given instructions. The victims can be easily traced by the suspects as they are young," said Nkwale. 

Nkwale argued that if the suspects were granted bail public order will be disturbed. 

"The community has been demonstrating outside this court that they don't want them [suspects] in the society, so releasing them will make things worse. The court should also note that the suspects will cross paths with the victims and these are kids who are easily influenced, [and] manipulated, and this again will mean that their safety will be compromised," he argued.

The trio's attorney, Tshegofatso Motau, informed the court that his clients intend to plead not guilty and that it is in the interest of justice for the suspects to be granted bail. 

"The court should note that this is a bail application not trial, and my clients have the right to apply for bail and be granted one; as of today there is no prima facie evidence against them and denying them bail is not in the interest of justice," he said. 

The suspects have asked the court to be released on warning as they do not have any financial means to pay for bail.   

In his submission, Motau said the cause of the learners falling sick has not been established and that it could have been due to school nutrition programme whose samples he said have not been taken for testing.  

"The school nutrition programme is obligated to keep the samples of the food they offer kids in the refrigerator for some time in case something like this happen. This didn't happen because the police didn't get the sample of the food. The state cannot prove any evidence against the accused because they are still waiting for lab results for the muffins," he said. 

The matter was postponed to later this month for the bail application judgment. 

Outside court, one of the guardians who were protesting said her two grandchildren were victims of the said crime and was hoping the court would decline bail for the accused.

"They wanted to kill my grandkids. They should should be locked up," she said.

According to the grandparent on the said day, one of her grandson who is grade 4 was given R10 to share with his sibling who is in grade 1.

"My husband gave our boy R10 because we didn't prepare lunch for him so he was supposed to share with her little sister who stay with her parents. On the said day I heard a whistle I went out and couldn't see anything and a boy came to our house and told me that I need to rush to the school where I found teachers loading kids to ambulances," said the granny.

Gauteng department of education spokesperson, Steve Mabona, has confirmed that all learners who were admitted to healthcare facilities after eating the "space muffins" have been discharged and should be at school next week.  

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