MARULENG: Hoedspruit Magistrate Court
The four Economic Freedom Fighters members accused of allegedly intimidating councilor Rebecca Malepe of ward 05 appeared at the Hoedspruit magistrate Court. This was their third appearance since they were charged with intimidation of the councillor two months ago.
The scene in and outside the court premises resembled mini rallies of both the African National Congress and the EFF. Outside, EFF members arrived in several cars and camped while their leaders were having some brief meetings. Inside ANC members and ward committee members and supporters of the councillor were already pensively seated. The tension and mistrust between the two groups so thick that you could cut it with a mere glance. The polarization of relations instigated by leaders who were supposed to be uniting is regrettable indeed.
In the build up to court session the defence Attorney Advocate Mongadi engaged with his clients on the back of an alleged request by the complainant that she intended to withdraw the case as per a request by the accused. She alleged that the accused have approached the Maruleng municipality’s Speaker and Chief Whip to apologize on their behalf and that she should withdraw the charges. The accused vehemently rejected this and indicated that they were ready to go on trial because they are sure that they didn’t commit any offence.
Court convened and both the complainant and the accused were informed that the previous Prosecutor had assigned the case for trial on the day. However the court said that cases of intimidation are tried by the regional court and that it wasn’t appraised of the reasons the case was set for trial without regard to normal law procedures. The court further explained that the prosecution has brought this anomaly to the attention of the defence council and that he has agreed to a postponement. The defence council concurred and the case was postponed to the 18th May 2017.
Bail for the accused was extended so as the conditions. Defence council indicated that he was also not aware that the case was set for trial but agreed to the postponement in order to enable the prosecution to process the matter in accordance with legal prescripts. He said he was ready for trial. On the matter of the withdrawal of the charges he indicated that it was not in his domain but confirmed that he heard about such an issue in the corridors.
Councilor Malepe confirmed that she was approached by the Speaker and Chief Whip on mediation because some of the accused wanted to apologize to her and that she should withdraw the charges. She said she agreed to this arrangement and was only discomforted by the fact that on the day the accused however came in large numbers, started hurling insults through song and chant. She said she then decided not to withdraw charges since she felt that they were not apologizing in good faith.
The Chief Whip Councillor Mongadi corroborated Cllr Malepe by indicating that they were indeed approached by some of the accused to apologize on their behalf and to request her to withdraw the charges. He furthermore said they were willing to do so especially that they (as leaders) advised Cllr Malepe to settle the matter out of court.
“We said to her that as a leader of the community she should avoid settling disputes through the courts” to which she agreed and was willing to withdraw the charges.
The accused raised concerns in the manner that the investigating officer has been handling the case and hoped that their lawyer would be able to deal with the matter. They confirmed that a request for the withdrawal of the charges was something new and that they never requested anyone to mediate on their behalf. They said they are more than ready to go to trial to clear their names.
This case shows that it is becoming clear that instruments of governance like the ward committees are used to fight political battles. The support of the councillor comes mainly from ward committee members and those that were given the piece jobs in her ward whilst the accused are members of the EFF. It is discouraging to observe this kind of conduct and that people are discriminated on the basis of political affiliation.
As a result of this practice a lot on service delivery is disadvantaged because from both sides of the divide tension mounts by the day. That people from the same ward look at each other as enemies defies logic because development will always require cooperation amongst them. This situation can be dealt with progressively by leaders who are ready to work for unity.
Politics & Governance