Details emerge of old murder case against axed ANC employee accused of heist

Former ANC employee Errol Velile Present, charged in connection with a Johannesburg cash-in-transit heist, was previously charged with murder, the Roodepoort Magistrate's Court heard on Friday. 

Present took the witness stand in the afternoon in his bail application and told the court about the previous murder case.

He said he had shot and killed an assailant during an attempted hijacking in 2016. At the time, his wife and children were with him.

However, the Roodepoort Regional Court later acquitted him of the murder charge, the court heard.

During his first few minutes of testimony, Present came across as calm.

He appeared in court alongside co-accused Itumeleng Manama, 40, Bheki Biyela, 38, and Zakhele Zondi, 37. They were shackled.

The men were arrested by the Johannesburg Metro Police Department's K9 Unit and Crime Intelligence in connection with a Dobsonville heist in which a security guard was shot and wounded.

They have been charged with robbery with aggravating circumstances, attempted murder and the possession of suspected stolen vehicles. 

READ: Soweto cash-in-transit heist: Court hears that accused is related to axed ANC employee

In his affidavit, which lawyer Ben Modumaela read out earlier, Present said he, his wife and four children lived in Roodepoort. He owned movable assets to the value of R500 000. 

He added that he worked as a database administrator at ANC headquarters Luthuli House since 2004 and disputed that he was a volunteer as the party previously claimed.

"It wouldn't make sense for me to be a volunteer for 14 years. I would say it is a joke." 

Present said he intended to plead not guilty and that he could afford to pay bail of R5 000.

Turning to the day of his arrest, he said he and his wife had been driving to his uncle's house in Dobsonville, Soweto. 

When they stopped at the house, armed police officers pounced on them and assaulted him and his wife.

"Police demanded money from the heist in Dobsonville," he alleged. 

The 33-year-old claimed that he had been tortured and forced to give a confession. Paramedics were later called to treat his wounds at the Roodepoort police station where he was held.

Before explaining the claimed assault in detail, Present asked that his mother be allowed to step out of the courtroom.

Modumaela then asked: "How were you assaulted?"

Torture claims

Present responded that he did not confess. When he arrived at the police station, officers tied his hands behind his back and made him lie on the ground. They used a plastic bag to cover his face and sprayed pepper spray on him.

"I then collapsed for some time. They put me on the side and continued questioning me. When I responded that I did not know, they told me I would know."

Present told the court that he was at a funeral on the day of the heist and that he later went to his grandmother's house. 

He added that his uncle had also been assaulted and was forced to make a statement about his link to the robbery. 

Present denied that he was part of a robbery or attempted murder on July 5. 

Earlier, co-accused Biyela told the court he worked as panel beater prior to his arrest. He earned a monthly salary of between R9 000 and R11 000. 

The father of three said he could afford to pay bail of R1 500 and that he intended to plead not guilty. 

Biyela was convicted of the theft of cash by the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court in 2014. He was sentenced to five years in prison but was released on parole after serving two years and six months.

Biyela also made torture claims.

He said that, he was arrested, police used a towel to cover his head and assaulted him. He claimed his rights were never explained to him and that he was just given a document to sign.

Investigating officer Solomon Mabasa also testified and told the court that he had 31 years of experience in the police.

He took the court through the details of what transpired on the day of the robbery in Soweto.

Mabasa said one G4S security guard was shot in the arm and that his firearm was stolen.

He said the robbers made off with two bags of money worth R220 000.

The State ran out of time to continue with Mabasa's testimony and the case was postponed to September 11.

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