‘Gangsters’ out of jail

2013-05-30 00:00

THE state’s failure to update its charge sheet in time led to two men accused of a string of housebreakings being released from custody yesterday.

Magistrate Celumusa Zungu granted bail to two alleged members of the “five- minute gang” housebreaking syndicate, but refused to release a third suspect on grounds that he is a flight risk.

Explaining her ruling that Sihle Msomi and Sifiso Hadebe (both of Durban) be granted bail of R10 000 each, the magistrate said the men had been in custody for over a month since their arrest on April 25.

Although it was alleged that they were linked to other offences, no further charges had yet been added against them.

“Today the prosecutor again told the court that further charges are going to be added in due course,” she said.

Zungu said it would be “unconstitutional” for the court to deny Msomi and Hadebe their freedom when police had had more than a month to charge them with further offences, but hadn’t done so.

She said that despite an apparently strong case against the men — who were arrested in a vehicle en route to Durban with goods stolen in two housebreakings that same morning — there was no evidence that they were flight risks and they were therefore entitled to be granted bail.

However, she ordered them to report to the nearest police station daily and not to leave KwaZulu-Natal without the permission of the investigating officer.

The third accused, Cebo Madyibi, also of Durban, was refused bail because he was considered a flight risk. There was evidence suggesting he was a “central” part of a housebreaking syndicate and because, unlike his two co-accused, he has previous convictions for theft and assault.

Zungu said Madyibi’s previous convictions had resulted in a schedule five bail application, where the onus was on the accused to show that his release was in the interests of justice.

However, in respect of Msomi and Hadebe, the onus was on the state to prove that they should not be released on bail.

“The [Criminal Procedure] Act states that unless the state discharges the onus, the accused are entitled to their release,” she said.

Zungu said the purpose of a bail application was not to determine if an accused was guilty or not of a crime, but whether or not the interests of justice permitted his release on bail.

She also doubted whether Madyibi lived at the address he had supplied. The investigating officer had testified that Madyibi’s uncle denied that he lived there.

She therefore considered him to be a flight risk.

Zungu also alluded to evidence by crime information analyst Thereza Botha, who testified that cellphone records linked Madyibi to housebreakings in Richards Bay and Empangeni, indicating he was a central part of a syndicate.

* Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said that although all the men were identified on May 22 at a police identification parade held in connection with two other housebreaking cases, there were a number of formalities that had to be completed before they could be charged with those offences. “It is not a question of just adding charges to a charge sheet; other investigations have to be finalised,” she said.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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