News24

Constable who shot teen denied bail

2012-04-25 17:52

Johannesburg - Student constable Sipho Mbatha, accused of shooting dead a Soweto teenager, was denied bail in the Roodepoort Magistrate's Court on Wednesday.

Handing down her ruling, Magistrate Delise Smith said several factors played a role in the findings.

"The fact that in his own version [of what happened] the accused seemingly admits negligence. The fact that in the past the accused threatened to commit suicide because of personal problems," Smith said.

"Outrage will be of such that the criminal justice system will be brought into disrepute if he is out on bail... Therefore, bail is denied."

Shooting

Mbatha, 41, sat in the dock wearing a black shirt, black jeans and a brown jacket. He was applying for bail after he allegedly killed 16-year-old Thato Mokoka in Braamfischerville Phase Two, Soweto, on February 14.

The teenager was shot three times with an R5 rifle, while lying on the ground on his stomach outside the home of his grandmother Sybil Mokoka.

Smith read out the evidence given during the bail application. There was an altercation between teenagers in Dobsonville, in which Mokoka was involved. Parents complained that Mokoka had a firearm and the police were called. Officers armed with R5 rifles went to Mokoka's grandmother's house to investigate. Due to the claims that Mokoka was armed, they took their firearms off safety mode, Smith said.

Mokoka was found in a shack with two girls, but no gun was found. He was taken outside and made to lie on the ground.

"This is where the scenario becomes a little cloudy," Smith said.

Mbatha claimed he bent over to search Mokoka when the shots went off.

"Negligence might be proven, but it is not my place to make a finding. That is for trial," Smith explained.

Suicide threat

In a previous court appearance, witnesses said Mbatha tried to commit suicide.

"I find that the applicant had on the 16th of December 2011 tried, or had threatened to commit suicide."

It was clear that local residents had threatened Mbatha's life. Smith said this was taken into consideration, although the public could not prescribe to the court what should be done.

"The community is clearly threatening the safety of the applicant if he is released on bail."

The matter was postponed to June 1 for further investigation.