Trio accused of attacking Hermanus police officer granted bail

Three people accused of the attempted murder and robbery of a police officer during the unrest in Hermanus were granted bail in the town's magistrate's court on Tuesday, their lawyer said.

"I was able to negotiate with the State for their release," said advocate Mafu Masina.

Theron Mqhu and two others were arrested after the attack on the officer on the evening of July 12.

This was during a lull in unrest in Zwelihle, a suburb of Hermanus, which had broken out over the arrest of a leader of the Zwelihle Renewal Committee, Gcobani Ndzongana.

READ: Cele calls on IPID to investigate Zwelihle claims of police harassment

The committee was formed to liaise with government officials over a demand that backyarders be allowed access to land to settle on. It was also part of an agreement that the committee would wait for the government to buy a plot called Schulphoek as a new site for the community to build their own houses on.

Mqhu had been the spokesperson of the committee.

The three men face charges of attempted murder, robbery and public violence after the attack on the police officer with an axe. He was seriously injured.

Masina said the conditions for their release were that:

  • They are to stay under house arrest;
  • They do not commit an offence in terms of schedule 1 of the Criminal Procedure Act;
  • They may only leave home to go to work or to look for work and they must remain at the address provided to the court between the hours of 20:00 and 06:00 every day;
  • They must live at the address provided to the court;
  • They may participate in religious activities and they may participate in sporting activities as a player, coach or manager, but not as a fan;
  • They must report to the Hermanus police station on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays;
  • They must hand over their passports if they have any;
  • They must inform the investigating officer if they intend leaving Western Cape; and
  • If they violate any of those conditions, they will lose their right to be out on bail.

"The best thing is that the guys have been released," said Masina.

One person is still in custody, facing a charge of attempted robbery and public violence. That bail application is expected to be heard on Friday.

Masina said the charges against that person were brought when his employer spotted him protesting on television and subjected him to a disciplinary procedure and also reported him to the police.

They were arrested when the tactical response team swooped in on Zwelihle after the police officer was attacked. Two firearms were recovered.

READ: 15 Hermanus unrest accused released from custody

When Police Minister Bheki Cele visited the area on July 20, activists told him that it was the committee's members who had traced the stolen weapons and had called the police to fetch them. Instead Mqhu, who was waiting to hand the firearms over, was arrested.

Ndzongana was denied bail when he appeared in the Strand Magistrate's Court on charges of alleged malicious damage to property and incitement to violence.

He had allegedly helped remove a fence the committee said was separating Zwelihle from a neighbouring suburb.