Guards ‘botched case’

2018-04-10 16:15
John Uzor (40), a Nigerian national, pictured after his arrest in Howick.

John Uzor (40), a Nigerian national, pictured after his arrest in Howick. (Supplied)

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2018-04-10 09:30

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Private security officers at a posh Howick estate have been blamed by a magistrate for “getting very excited” and taking the law into their own hands during the arrest of an alleged drug dealer.

Their alleged actions had led to Nigerian national John Uzor (40) being granted bail at the Howick Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Uzor, who was nabbed two weeks ago at the St John’s Village estate, faces a charge of “dealing in dangerous dependence-producing substances” after he was allegedly caught with drugs to the value of about R12 000.

According to the charge sheet, Uzor, who runs a clothing shop in Howick, was caught with 55 bags of “CAT”, three bags of “Crystal”, and one bag of “brown powder”.

During cross-examination the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Andre Diedericks, said Uzor was caught by the estate’s private security after they became suspicious of his actions observed via camera footage.

Private security officers then raided his car, and his home in Howick in search for drugs — without assistance from, or the knowledge of the police, and without a search warrant.

Uzor was later taken to a police station, where he was arrested.

After hearing about this chain of events, magistrate Ntsoaki Khakano bluntly asked the state whether it really thought it had a strong case.

“Under what circumstances ... [could private security have a] suspicion and take it upon themselves to search him [Uzor] without informing the SAPS?

“There were many mistakes by the state … with this kind of behaviour during the arrest, one wonders how strong the case is,” she said.

“Some security officers got very excited and forgot” to adhere to rules, she said.

“They had no right to search his property and go searching for drugs then only alert SAPS afterwards … There are many holes in the state’s case at this stage.”

She granted Uzor R2 000 bail, and his bail conditions were that he is not allowed to interfere with witnesses and has to report to the Howick police station every Friday.

Diedericks, under cross-examination by state prosecutor M. Khanyile, believed Uzor would be a flight risk. He told the court bail should not be granted, and said foreign nationals were known to flee to their country of origin when given bail.

But Uzor’s representative, N. Abraham, said Uzor did not have a passport and was in South Africa after being granted asylum in 2013. “He has a temporary permit that doesn’t allow him to leave. He’s basically stuck here.

“Without a warrant, the state has a very weak case. And the drugs needing to go to Pretoria [for testing] will take long time … so it’s not in the interest of justice [to refuse bail].”

The court also heard that Uzor was last year convicted of being in possession of drugs, and was handed a R5 000 fine and a suspended sentence for five years. He has no pending cases.

“In that last case he was granted bail and had complied to his bail conditions,” Abraham said.

Khakano agreed with the defence, and said she could not foresee Uzor skipping the country or interfering with witnesses.

He will appear again next month.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

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