The man accused of throwing his 1-year-old daughter from the roof of a shack earlier this month during municipal demolitions of illegal structures has been released on a warning by the New Brighton Magistrate's Court in Port Elizabeth.
The 38-year-old, whose name is being withheld in the interests of the child, was captured in a dramatic series of pictures, first as he threatened to throw her off the roof of a shack in Joe Slovo informal settlement and eventually as he did. The child was caught by a metro police officer, Constable Luyolo Nojulumba.
Prosecutor Nontshumayelo Balicawa said the father was now facing a charge of child abuse, after the initial charge was downgraded from attempted murder during his first appearance last week. The State was not opposed to bail.
Balicawa said the matter of verifying the man's new address had been finalised and the social worker's report had been completed.
Legal aid attorney Mxolisi Moolman then petitioned the court on Monday for his client be released on warning.
Moolman read from the social worker's report which indicated that the man's family, which includes four children, is destitute. He said the family had no fixed income, aside from a social grant of R1 200 a month, and had been evicted from a backyard shack in the Joe Slovo informal settlement, as they had been unable to pay rent.
He said this led them to erect the dwelling on the vacant piece of land, which was then demolished by the municipality.
Magistrate Shivan Maharaj released the father on a warning, and said that as part of his release, he was to meet with the social worker assigned to his case, in order to visit his child.
The case was postponed to May 29.
No proof of attempted murder
Speaking to the media outside the court, the father said he had seen the police were in the process of demolishing the homes, and he thought they would skip his house if he jumped on the roof with his child.
"One policeman climbed onto the roof of my house and then I saw other police up there. I could see the roof zinc was bending and thought it was going to be dangerous to fall inside the shack with my child.
"I thought I would give the child to her mother. It's not the way they're portraying this story. I didn't want to kill my child."
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Tsepo Ndwalaza said the State was fine with the charge being amended as there was no proof that the man had intended to kill his daughter.
"When he appeared, the issue was that we could not prove the intention.
"We are fine with it. It was going to be a bit tough to say it is attempted murder when we didn't have proof for that. That's when we decided the case should be child abuse instead of attempted murder, because no one could prove that he wanted to throw the child," he said.
A small group of residents who were part of the community that was evicted also attended Monday's proceedings.
The group gathered around the man and his wife as he left the court. They accused the media of biased reporting. Community leader Lizzie Jantjies said they had a petition with 385 signatures in support of the man.
"We are going to help them to get the child back, because this is where she belongs. He never abused the child," she said.