‘Xenophobic’ attack: state opposes bail

2013-10-31 00:00

THE bail application of six people charged with the death of an Ethiopian man in France township last month has taken on an international hue as police probe a possible xenophobic motive.

Asefe Erise Lombabo died after being trapped in a house-cum-tuck shop in the area on September 10.

Magistrate Ashin Singh said the fact that police are investigating a possible xenophobic motive was serious and had international implications.

Singh said he was aware the United Nations had expressed concern about attacks on foreigners in South Africa.

Brothers Nkanyiso and Sphamandla Mthembu — students who are scheduled to write end-of-year exams — were, however, granted bail of R1 000 each by Singh yesterday, on condition they remained under house arrest.

They were ordered to move to an alternative address and not to make any contact with any state witnesses.

The bail application of the other four accused — Fikelephi Nhlangulela, Nobuhle Lucracia Mthembu, Andile Sabelo Nhlangulela and Dumisani Mageba — was postponed until November 15, pending investigations into possible links to other alleged xenophobic incidents

Prosecutor Miriam Aboobaker said the police are looking into a number of other cases involving attacks on foreigners who withdrew charges, allegedly out of fear of reprisals.

She asked the court for time for the investigating officer to trace the alleged victims to interview them.

“There are allegations in the docket that the accused were displeased that foreigners had opened tuck shops and were cutting their prices. It is a very serious matter if there is a vendetta against foreigners,” said Aboobaker.

She said the state was also opposed to bail being granted because there is a single eyewitness to the alleged arson and murder of Lombabo, who is known to the accused.

Investigating officer Warrant Officer Ablon Majozi said Fikelephi Nhlangulela, Nobuhle Mthembu and Andile Nhlangulela were arrested previously in connection with similar incidents in 2012. The charges were allegedly withdrawn because complainants feared for their lives, not because there was insufficient evidence against the accused, he said.

Although Dumisani Mageba was not alleged to be linked to these incidents, the court heard that he has a previous conviction for robbery, and another pending case against him.

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