South Africa: Hermanus On Edge As Land Protesters Appear in Court

Hundreds march from the Hermanus Magistrates’ Court to Zwelihle after a bail hearing was postponed on Tuesday.

Eleven out of 40 people arrested in protests after a thwarted "land grab" appeared in the Hermanus Magistrate's Court on Tuesday after being charged with public violence.

They are: Menzi Fokazi, Sive Bophani, Qhawe Bawdeza, Fezile Mzimeli, Mncedisi Ntantala, Deyiti Ntshono, Mthuthuzeli Thembani, Asixolele Mandoyi, Fezeka Mjuleni, Xoli Mkhwe and Ntombifikile Njumbu, all in their 20s and 30s.

Part of the court had been cordoned off with police tape to make room for them as the dock was not big enough, and a limited number of family and community members were allowed inside.

Hundreds of supporters waited outside with police monitoring from a distance.

A South African Human Rights Commission representative, Chris Nissen, was also on hand to monitor the gathering outside the court, and proceedings inside.

"We are helping people prepare their paperwork for the court appearance," said Nissen, who added that the police had also supplied extra manpower to help with affidavits for the bail applications of the remaining 29.

Threats outside court

The two women and nine men who were ready to make their bail applications in front of Magistrate Jeremy Maarman on Tuesday filed into the court and raised their hands as their names were read out by prosecutor Harold Engelbrecht.

Part of the R43 Main Road running through Hermanus was cordoned off by police as the community held a meeting to advise the families of the remaining 29 accused still in custody on how to prepare for their bail hearings. A community leader could be heard from inside the court, speaking through a megaphone.

When the case started, the prosecutor said the State opposed the release of the 11 making their bail application on Tuesday.

The investigating officer, a Sergeant Zimmerman, was called to the stand to testify and said: "Your Lordship, I am opposing bail due to the threat of the safety of the community and their property and/or specific persons."

Zimmerman said some people were threatened with violence, including a police officer who was taken out of his house.

He also said protesters outside court made threats, calling for people not to go to work. He added that the local community was "shocked" and "outraged", and afraid for their businesses.

He said some of the 11 accused allegedly gave false information regarding their names, surnames and addresses.

Although all the accused were arrested at different times and places following the protests in March, he said they all worked with one goal in mind - "and that is: causing havoc and disorder".

Land promised

The attempt to peg out land started on March 22, and by March 24, vehicles were being burnt or stoned, shops were burnt down, police were stoned, and people were allegedly assaulted.

Rousing singing and shouting could be heard outside the court as proceedings were underway on Tuesday.

Zimmerman said the full cost of the protests was still being calculated, and this included public vehicles which were damaged.

Nine shops were completely burnt down, about six or seven vehicles, plus a bus and a house were burnt, windows were damaged, and a police station was burnt down.

"All these properties, gone," said Zimmerman.

On March 22, a group of people from Zwelihle pegged out sites on municipal land but were evicted. Protests began in retaliation, and complaints about alleged housing corruption were made. Eventually, on March 27, the MEC for human settlements Bonginkosi Madikizela arrived and promised that land had been identified for them to build on. He would not say where it was yet, to prevent a "chaotic" invasion of the land before it was serviced.

Court was adjourned until 14:00 for the bail hearing to continue.

The remaining 29 are expected to make a brief appearance but the finer details of their bail applications have not been confirmed yet, so they are likely to be sent back to custody.

Source: News24

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