Motorist behind VIP protection assault video ‘too scared to come forward’

26 July 2023 - 20:47
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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 Randburg magistrate's court on Wednesday heard that the motorist who took the now-viral video showing the assault of three men apparently by close protection officers attached to deputy president Paul Mashatile, is “too scared to come forward” and that his or her identity is not known.

This as the state moved to submit the video footage and a threatening text message sent to the distributor of the video as “real evidence” while one of the lawyers for the suspended officers indicated a possible challenge to the submission.

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 appeared for the second time in court on Wednesday, keeping their faces down and masks on.

All eight provisionally face 12 charges, including malicious damage to property, assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm and pointing a firearm.

The state is opposing bail for all eight.

The matter started with the state making a request to “have the text message and video clip submitted as real evidence”.

The former relates to a threatening message sent to a man, who cannot be named as he is a state witness, after he shared the now-viral footage on social media.

Prosecutor Elize le Roux cited section 15 of the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002 in her submission, saying: “As the court is well aware, this is in fact an enabling act and not an exclusionary act. In other words, this act has as its aim to make the admission of specific electronic-generated evidence easily admissible in the court proceedings.

“The state will not be able to produce the original data message at any stage. The fact of the matter is ... the witness testifying about this data message, received this message via WhatsApp communication on his cellphone. He duly then downloaded it and placed it on two memory sticks.” 

It was during this time that the state revealed that it did not know the identity of the person who took the video as he was “too scared to come forward” and that the state witness had refused to share it.

Le Roux said the video was shared with the state witness due him being in the “security business” and being able better protect himself.

This though the state had indicated that the witness feared for his life after receiving the threatening text.

A lawyer for one of accused indicated before the court adjourned for the day that they wanted to examine “certain legislation that was embarked upon by the state that we think we need to research and form an opinion on and determine how it can be useful in an argument”.

Earlier on, the court heard arguments from seven of the officers applying for bail as they opted to submit affidavits only rather than supplement them with testimony. They all revealed that they earned between R10,000 and R29,000 net salaries and could afford bail of R1,000. Kojoana spoke of R2,000 in his bail application.

They all denied they had knowledge or ties to the threatening message or that they would interfere with witnesses or the investigation if they are released on bail.

They denied claims that blue light drivers often disregard traffic rules, with Xabiso Shotshonganye, representing Mampuru, Mofokeng and Ramokhonami, saying if this was the case, then there would be charges or previous cases against his clients.

The officers accused the state of having a weak case against them and only proceeding with the matter due to pressure from the media and public.

They denied that their release on bail would result in “shock or outrage” and said they needed to be out on bail to prepare for internal disciplinary hearings against them which will run until September.

The matter was rolled over to Thursday and proceedings are expected to kick off with the suspension of media coverage of the bail applications while the video showing the assault is played in court as the officers show their faces.

The eight men charged over the July 2 incident have been allowed to keep their faces covered for the duration of proceedings to keep their identities hidden. This was a concession made after their bid to bar the media from broadcasting proceedings failed.


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