Madiba vandals on violence rap

2011-07-20 00:00

PRETORIA — Six members of the so-called Reconnaissance Movement (Verkennersbeweging) arrested for replacing former president Nelson Mandela’s name on street signs in Pretoria with that of rightwing assassin Clive Derby-Lewis, were charged with public violence yesterday.

Their lawyer, Marius Coertze, told the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court the charge is “absurd”.

“They did not commit any violence. It was a demonstation of freedom of speech,” said Coertze, who is also the jailed Derby-Lewis’s attorney.–

The six were also charged with malicious damage to property and contravention of the Road Traffic Act.

Ben Geldenhuys (38) and Jan Beyers (31), the president and treasurer respectively of the Verkennersbeweging, Ewald Graefe (30), Cobus Pretorius (25), Tommy Harmse (33) and Rian Combrink (27) were released on bail of R1 000 each.

Harmse is a police reservist and Combrink is studying theology.

When they were arrested on Sunday night the men told police they were members of the Afrikaans Protestant Church.

They were caught on CCTV and still had stickers bearing Derby-Lewis’s name in their possession.

Derby-Lewis (75) is serving a life sentence for the murder of Chris Hani, who was the secretary-general of the SA Communist Party.

Alwyn de Klerk, secretary of the Verkennersbeweging, said in a statement the “Friends of Clive” decided to stage their protest under the banner of freedom of speech so that Derby-Lewis could also have “justice and freedom”.

Said prosecutor Sipho Letsoalo, “They planned the action to coinicide with the birthday of the icon, Nelson Mandela. It would have led to public violence,”

Coertze said there was no violence, the signs were not damaged by the stickers and a streetname sign does not fall under the definition of a road sign in the Road Traffic Act.

“The men put the name of their folk hero over the name of the folk hero of other people,” he said.

“The purpose was to make boere think of heroes like Clive and General Koos de la Rey. We also want our heroes,” he added.

The case was postponed until next month. 

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