Ga-Rankuwa pupil released on warning has 'track record' of bullying, court hears

A screengrab of the incident. (Photo: @LaDumezulu, Twitter)
A screengrab of the incident. (Photo: @LaDumezulu, Twitter)

The 18-year-old Modiri Secondary School pupil accused of bullying has previous cases of bullying, assault and intimidation, the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrate's Court in Pretoria heard on Wednesday.

This was according to investigating officer Constable Lebogang Matjila, who testified in the bail hearing of Onthatile Magagula. He opposed her release from custody, citing safety reasons.

"I checked and found that she had another case where she went for a disciplinary. She was charged for bullying, assault and intimidation," the officer said. He added the earlier charges against her were laid in October 2018.

The officer told the court he had a sense that the community was not happy with Magagula, which could be a safety concern if she was released.

When asked by the girl's Legal Aid representative, Janki Makinta, how he had become aware that there were safety concerns, the officer could not answer. Makinta said the court could not deny bail based on hearsay, arguing that no harm had come to Magagula from the time the incident happened until the time she was arrested.

"There was a video or an audio that was taken. I put it to you the whole community [was aware of the video] but nothing has happened to the safety of the applicant before her arrest," the lawyer said.

Makinta argued that it was in the interest of justice that the girl be released and afforded her right to education and to prepare for her upcoming disciplinary hearing.

'Our law always waits for someone to die before acting'

After Magistrate Margaret van Heerden released Magagula on a warning into her parents' care, community members and leaders expressed different views on the ruling.

Kabelo Theoha of #NotInMyName said the release of the girl had "prejudiced the victim".

"We feel like our law always waits for someone to die before acting. The girl [victim] has low self-esteem now and will never be confident at school following the incident. She will forever be a laughing stock to other school kids," she said.

READ: Gauteng pupil arrested in connection with viral bullying video says sorry

EFF secretary general in Ward 31 Tshepo Matlalaela said they were disappointed in the testimony of the investigating officer, who was the main witness, and that he opposed bail.

He said the officer had failed by not submitting a J88 form and witness statements.

"We are not saying she must be arrested. All we are saying is that police must do their job and not give perpetrators silver spoon bailouts because they did not do their job. We feel like the police officer has failed the community," Matlalaela said.

Meanwhile the ANC's branch chairperson in Ward 30, Collen Mpyane, welcomed the release of the girl, adding he hoped she would go back to school and continue her final year.

"The outcome of the court [is] viewed as objective and in the interest of social justice. We will continue to give support to the affected parties and restore their dignity," he said.

The families of both the accused and victim refused to comment following proceedings. 

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