#VlakfonteinMurders: Load shedding leads to case being postponed again

2018-11-21 15:40
Gavel and scales

Gavel and scales

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It was another day of justice delayed on Wednesday for the relatives of the Khoza family as the highly publicised Vlakfontein murders case was postponed once again and transferred to the Protea Magistrate's Court due to load shedding. 

"I was informed that it was load shedding and we must wait two hours, now it's 13:00 and we have been delayed for four hours. I cannot justify keeping everybody waiting," Magistrate Maggie Van der Merwe explained. 

READ: Vlakfontein murder trial postponed after accused decides to apply for bail

Fita Khupe, 61, and his co-accused, 27, were expected to proceed with their formal bail application on Wednesday but by 09:00 the lights had gone out at the Lenasia Magistrate's Court building. 

The two suspects are accused of killing seven members of the Khoza family last month in Vlakfontein, south of Johannesburg.

The police found the bodies of three women and four children buried under sand in a house in the area on October 29 after neighbours noticed a stench coming from the house.

Evidence must be recorded

The State requested a further remand because load shedding would affect the recording of proceedings. 

"Bail applications must be recorded. A court must always be a court of record.

"An important proceeding like a bail application, this evidence has to be recorded. To write the entire court proceeding is an impossible task," said Van der Merwe. 

READ: Vlakfonteinmurders: Unexpected power outage leads to postponement of case

Lawyers for Khupe and his co-accused objected to a further postponement as this would exceed the seven-day period. 

"We do not want to postpone the bail application for longer than the seven days, their rights will be infringed.

"I believe it should be postponed and transferred to another court," lawyer Makau Sekgata, on behalf of the 27-year-old co-accused, told the court. 

Gerhard Landman, on behalf of Khupe, shared similar sentiments as his colleague. 

"For the accused to remain in custody because of load shedding is infringing on his constitutional rights," he added. 

Violation of the law

Magistrate Van der Merwe highlighted that her courtroom closes on Thursday and reopens on December 10. 

"This two-week delay would directly infringe on the accused's rights. This is a valid objection and I am bound by law to deal with a bail application within the seven-day period," Van der Merwe told the court. 

The State expressed concern to the court that the matter per instruction was to be heard in the Lenasia Magistrate's Court.

"Your worship, I understand but I have received clear instructions that this matter must be heard in this court," prosecutor Tumelo Maunye told the court. 

"I understand that, but I will be in direct violation of the law if I do not transfer this matter," Van der Merwe said in response. 

The matter has been transferred to the Protea Magistrate's Court on Thursday to allocate a date for the formal bail application. 

The suspects will remain in police custody.

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