Showdown at Durban high court

2012-06-21 00:00

DURING a tense showdown in the high court in Durban, the policemen’s advocate, Guido Penzhorn SC, and attorney Carl van der Merwe clashed with the state’s huge legal contingent outside Judge Trevor Gorven’s chambers in a bid to resolve an urgent application for bail.

Judge Gorven ordered in chambers and by consent that the matter be adjourned indefinitely and that the arrested officers appear in the Durban Magistrate’s Court today for the bail application.

Van der Merwe, who filed the affidavit on behalf of the policemen, said they had been forced to bring the application after the arrests, which had come despite an undertaking given him that the matter would be “left”.

He said he had received information at 6 pm on Tuesday that the officers were about to be arrested. The officers then all met at their offices on Victoria Embankment to comply with any court process and this was communicated to Colonel Niyau, leader of the task team, and to Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela.

“They both undertook to convey this to [Hawks General Jan] Mabula … and to revert to me. At 4.50 am Colonel Niyau arrived at the offices where all the applicants had assembled and informed me that he had come to verify that they were there. He then called a Brigadier Fritz, and after concluding that call, informed me that he was told to leave it and he left.

“This was a clear indication to me that they were going to abide by the understanding that [Hawks head Anwa] Dramat and I had arrived at and I then told the officers they could go home,” said Van der Merwe.

He said he had sent a letter to Dramat on Monday advising him that it was not necessary to arrest the officers as they were prepared to hand themselves over. Dramat acknowledged the request in a reply a day later, saying his office would consider the request.

“Before they could even leave their [Victoria Embankment] offices, they began receiving telephone calls from their families, informing them that the police were at their homes, wanting to arrest them and to search their premises. The officers then departed to their homes, where they were arrested and their property and possessions searched,” said Van der Merwe.

Mabula later contacted him to say the state would oppose bail, but did not say why. Van der Merwe said the arrests were therefore “wholly unnecessary, in bad faith and an abuse of process”.

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