Chaos after bail ruling

2016-12-23 10:48
One of the Economic Freedom Fighters supporters being arrested by police outside the Pietermaritzburg high court on Friday. Police cracked down on the unruly group of supporters who stormed the streets after DUT student Bonginkosi Khanyile was denied bail. INSET: EFF supporters throw trash in the CBD on Friday.

One of the Economic Freedom Fighters supporters being arrested by police outside the Pietermaritzburg high court on Friday. Police cracked down on the unruly group of supporters who stormed the streets after DUT student Bonginkosi Khanyile was denied bail. INSET: EFF supporters throw trash in the CBD on Friday. (Ian Carbutt & Ingrid Oellermann)

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Ear-splitting explosions rocked the CBD and acrid smoke filled the air as police fired stun grenades in response to an unruly EFF mob angered by a judge’s decision on Thursday to deny bail to student leader Bonginkosi Khanyile.

Tempers flared among the crowd, who came to court with high hopes that the student leader would be home for Christmas.

Afterwards they set about trashing Church Street, tipping over a heavy concrete bin and throwing rubbish all over the streets.

The stun grenades were fired when some members of the group began throwing stones at members of the Public Order Police Unit and others reportedly started “banging” or jumping on bonnets of cars in the vicinity.

One EFF supporter seated in a wheelchair was seen trying to extricate himself from the choking smoke while his companions fled the blasts of the stun grenades with police in hot pursuit.

The crowd raced to the nearby taxi rank, where police arrested two men.

Looking on as activists led the arrested men to a police van was the mother of Bonginkosi Khanyile.

A source said police detained only two of the protesters because they were allegedly identified as being among the stone throwers.

SAPS spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said the two are expected to appear in court on Friday [today] in connection with charges of public violence.

When realisation first dawned on the crowd of EFF supporters at court that their hero was not going to be released, some vented their anger at the cameramen and journalists who filmed and took photographs of the public reaction. They accused members of the media of “provoking” them and warned them not to take video footage or to photograph them “without permission”.

The crowd moved from the courtroom to the area in front of the high court where members of the group in turn raged at the “injustice” of Judge Nkosinathi Chili’s ruling and warned that they would “respond”.

“How or when we do not yet know, but they are going to see it,” one of the activists told the crowd.

They questioned how “rapists” can walk free but a student leader is kept in custody, and blamed it on a political agenda.

A blue wall of policemen formed a protective barrier in front of the glass doors of the high court while the crowd discussed the judgment, but the officers did not react to comments directed at them.

After the crowd moved to the street and started to throw rubbish around, the police moved in.

Khanyile, a Durban University of Technology final-year student and “Fees Must Fall” activist, is reported to be the only student still in jail in connection with the violent protests that rocked university campuses this year.

He faces charges of convening or attending an illegal gathering or demonstration, incitement to commit public violence, public violence and assault.

Judge Chili agreed with the findings of Durban magistrate Jackie Jonck, who refused Khanyile’s bail application for a second time after finding that he breached conditions imposed on him after he was arrested and released on warning for similar offences in February.

In a written judgment, Chili said Khanyile admitted in an affidavit having made utterances he described as “strong views expressed in the heat of the moment”. He also said he no longer held those views and that he now believed violence was “not the solution to address concerns and grievances”.

The judge said these facts showed Khanyile did take part in an unlawful gathering in breach of his warning conditions.

The judge said this was a “ damning factor” when deciding if it would be in the interests of justice to give him bail.

“A flagrant disregard of a court order borders on contempt and is sanctionable. If it is condoned, law-abiding citizens are likely to lose confidence in the justice system,” Chili said.

He said if Khanyile had merely been present at the demonstration it would be a “different story”, but he played a vital role.

“He was elevated above the crowds by his supporters, making utterances which by his own admission triggered violent behaviour amongst the crowds, including hurling stones at the police in blatant disregard of a direct order barring him from participating in an unlawful gathering,” said Judge Chili.

He said if Khanyile breached his warning conditions, nothing would prevent him also breaching his bail conditions.

About the fact that Khanyile is the only student from Fees Must Fall protests still behind bars, the judge said he was not privy to the circumstances that prevailed in the other matters and could not comment.

LEGAL and transformation officer for the EFF Student Command (SC) Zweli Malope told The Witness shortly after the ruling was announced that they were “very disappointed”.

“Frustrations have reached a boiling point. He [Khanyile] has now been in prison 86 days,” he said, adding Khanyile is “not a criminal” but a student fighting for free education for the benefit of everyone. “We will take this matter to the highest court. We will not let it rest,” he said.

Legal sources said if a bail appeal is denied the appellant has the right to approach the Supreme Court of Appeals to appeal the ruling.

However, this is not often done as it is a costly process and can take a long time to finalise.

Read more on:    dut  |  bonginkosi khanyile  |  pietermaritzburg  |  fees must fall protests

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