Dlamini's bail valid because State failed to share video footage with defence - judge

By Drum Digital
13 January 2017

The State's failure to share video footage of Fees Must Fall activist Mcebo Dlamini with his legal team was crucial in the decision to grant him bail.

The State's failure to share video footage of Fees Must Fall activist Mcebo Dlamini with his legal team was crucial in the decision to grant him bail. The footage allegedly showed him throwing rocks at police.

The failure was among the reasons why the State's appeal against Dlamini's bail was overturned by the court.

Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng gave reasons why Dlamini was granted bail in the High Court in Johannesburg on Friday morning.

"The appellant [Dlamini] and his legal representatives have never had an opportunity to view video footage," said Mokgoatlheng.

He said this put Dlamini at a disadvantage, because he wasn't given a chance to confirm or dispute whether it was him in the video.

"Failure to disclose the video footage to the appellant infringes on his right to a fair hearing... There is absolutely no evidential basis whatsoever that the applicant has a propensity to public violence or damage to property," he said.

Political motivation 'speculation'

The former Wits SRC leader was arrested at his residence on October 16 and was charged with violating a court order, public violence, assault, theft and damage to property. He was later released on R2 000 bail.

The judge found that the magistrate's court had been incorrect in denying Dlamini bail, leading to him spending two months in custody.

But Mokgoatlheng said the lower court had been correct in finding that Dlamini had been dishonest when he claimed that he had an exam to write on November 18. However, he said this was not the only factor to consider in granting Dlamini bail.

Mokgoatlheng shied away from comments on whether or not the charges against Dlamini were politically motivated.

"At this moment everyone is speculating," he said. A ruling on whether or not the charges were in fact an attempt to silence Dlamini would be made during the trial, which was set to start on June 15.

Dlamini's attorney Thabo Kwinana said he was pleased with the judgment.

Precedent

"We think that the judgment by the judge is correct and it reinforces our belief in the rule of law and justice. It merely concentrated on whether the evidence that was used by the magistrate's court did justify a decision to deny the bail."

"The judge has correctly found that such decision was patently wrong and that's why he overturned it."

He added that Dlamini's legal team had already made representations to the NPA to apply for the withdrawal of the charges against him.

Dlamini said he hoped the judgment would set a precedent for the handling of other cases where Fees Must Fall leaders had been jailed.

"There was no basis that the government had to keep us behind bars. I hope that the decision that the court pronounced today will have an effect on other cases where Fees Must Fall leaders are still held in prison... because the charges are the same and the motives are the same," he said.

Source: News24

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