Election day assault trio's 'honesty' gets them bail

IEC voting station. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
IEC voting station. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Malamulele - Three Limpopo suspects arrested in connection with assaulting police and an IEC official over an election day phone call at a voting station were on Friday granted bail by the Malamulele Magistrate's Court.

Akani Hobyani, 25, Nyiko Hobyani, 25, and Fumani Chabalala, 25, were granted R5 000 bail each for the incident that took place at Xigalo Primary school during local elections on August 3.

According to the police, Chabalala had answered his phone inside the voting station and the IEC official told him that taking calls was not allowed.

An argument ensued and Chabalala allegedly assaulted the IEC official. A policeman on duty tried to intervene and was allegedly assaulted by the trio who then took his work pistol.

More police were called to the scene. The trio, together with the Hobyanis' mother, Makombisi Hobyani (45), who is also out on R5 000 bail granted last week during their first appearance, allegedly then threw stones at police vehicles and damaged the fence at the school.

All four face charges of assault, assault with intention to do grievous bodily harm, malicious damage to property, interfering with an IEC official and common robbery.

Magistrate Daniel Maluleke ruled that the suspects be granted bail.

"The court sees fit to give you R5 000 bail each on condition that you don't interfere with State witnesses, report to Malamulele Police Station every Friday, and you don't miss court appearances during your trial. Any failure to do that, and your bail will be revoked," he said.

Previous convictions

Defence lawyer Makhasani Rikhotso had argued that "as the defence we are asking for court's mercy to grant the accused bail. It is in the interest of justice to give the accused bail as they are still young and want to go out and continue with their studies.”

He also read the affidavits of each accused, in which are detailed their previous convictions.

In 2015, Fumani Chabalala was found guilty of malicious damage to property and was sentenced to three months in prison or the payment of a R1 000 fine, which he paid.

In 2014, Nyiko Hobyani was convicted of theft and sentenced to six months' imprisonment or the payment of a R5 000 fine, which he also paid.

And in 2015, Akani Hobyani was found guilty of common robbery and sentenced to six months in prison.

Rikhotso acknowledged his clients' previous convictions but argued these were no obstacle to getting bail, because they had been honest with the court.

"I'm so happy that my clients told the court the truth and this shows that they are truthful people, and I ask for the court's mercy not to hinder their bail because of their previous convictions," pleaded Rikhotso.

The State welcomed the court's ruling.

All four accused will be back in court on September 19 for trial.

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