Hermanus 11 to spend another night behind bars

Community members in Hermanus. (Jenni Evans, News24)
Community members in Hermanus. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Eleven people arrested for alleged public violence in Zwelihle, Hermanus, will spend another night in custody after their bail application was postponed to Thursday for further witness testimony.

Menzi Fokazi, Sive Bophani, Qhawe Bawdeza, Fezile Mzimeli, Mncedisi Ntantala, Deyiti Ntshono, Mthuthuzeli Thembani, Busiswa Mandoyi, Fezeka Mjuleni, Xoli Mkhwe and Ntombifikile Njumbu, appeared forlorn as they returned to police custody.

They were allegedly among a large group of people who looted shops, torched vehicles and damaged buildings, following a thwarted attempt by some people in Zwelihle to peg out plots for themselves on municipal land.

Prosecutor Harold Engelbrecht has called on two police witnesses so far to support the State's contention that bail should not be granted because the accused may threaten or pose a risk to the community of Hermanus in the Western Cape, and were flight risks.

The first investigating officer, Sergeant Henry Zimmermann, said some of the accused had acted as part of a larger group. He added that, when they were arrested, they allegedly provided incorrect addresses. In one case the wrong name was provided.

"Giving the right name and address establishes trust," said Zimmermann.

He said he believed they would pose a risk to the community of Hermanus if they were released.

He testified that, at one point during the protests that flared up from around March 22, racial slurs were made.

"The direct words that they used are 'that they are going to kill the coloureds and the whites'," Zimmermann said to the dismay of relatives of the accused in the public gallery.

"He is lying," one community leader charged.

11 people appear in court to make bail applications relating to alleged public violence over land, houses, in Zwelihle, Hermanus.(Jenni Evans, News24)

Zimmermann said most of the people arrested had been caught, either running in or out of a foreign-owned shop.

He said the shops were ransacked and looted and that people returned to torch the businesses.

None of the foreign-owned shops had insurance to cover the loss of their shops and stock, the court heard. One of the cars which was torched was still being paid off and the owner did not have insurance to cover the damage.

He added that a policeman was taken out of his house and made to stand on the pavement the whole day to prove that he was heeding the order by some in Zwelihle that nobody could go to work.

The defence lawyer of the 11, Dante van der Merwe, said the allegations that all of the accused are innocent until proven otherwise, and they all have responsibilities and families to care for. He said one incorrect address was provided because the man was illiterate, and in the second, the woman provided the name she is commonly known by, not the name on her identity document.

The next witness, Lieutenant Colonel Muneeb Africa, said that on March 23 and 24, he was the incident commander at the protests.

He told Magistrate Jeremy Maarman what he had encountered.

Africa said that a law enforcement vehicle had been torched, the Zwelihle library had been raided of all of its computers and other equipment, the school next door to the library had its computer equipment stolen, and scores of shops were damaged.

He said the police went back to the library to remove all the books and salvage whatever they could before another attempt was made to burn it down. Parts of the library were torched and damaged when the crowds returned.

He said public order police helped to control the large groups of people massing at various points around Zwelihle, but as soon as they were chased or teargassed, they split up into smaller groups and that is when the looting and damage took place.

PICS: Road closed in Hermanus as large crowd gathers to support arrested protesters in court

He said there was also an attempt to break into an ATM at the taxi rank and all the while, stones and rocks were being thrown at the police.

He added that a group of Somali residents went to the police station and asked the police to help get their families out of their houses because they were trapped inside. Many went to relatives further afield and some took shelter at places of safety set up for them.

However, Maarman wanted information that specifically tied each of the 11 to a specific event, and revealed whether they were not just spectators who are usually drawn to large public gatherings.

Another witness is expected to testify when the bail application resumes on Thursday.

After their application, 29 others who were also arrested, will apply for bail.

In the meantime, community leader Sicelo Gxamesi denied that there was a work stayaway or further protests relating to the bail application, as claimed by some.

He said that, after a community meeting late on Tuesday, following their protest in Main Road, everybody decided to go back to work.

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