Cape Town - The acquittal of seven people charged with transporting faeces and plotting to dump it at the Western Cape legislature was “surprising”, a Cape Town official said on Wednesday.
“While we believe in the independence of the judiciary, the City of Cape Town finds it highly regrettable and surprising that the magistrate ruled in this fashion,” safety and security mayoral committee member JP Smith said.
“We have a number of reservations about the way this case was handled, particularly since critical State evidence was not allowed to be submitted, including photographs and other evidence.”
Smith said the State was expected to appeal against the ruling in favour of Ses'Khona People's Rights Movement leader Andile Lili and six others.
He said Wednesday's ruling had no bearing on a number of pending cases against the rights movement.
The city was also pursuing civil action against it.
“We maintain that Mr (Loyiso) Nkohla and Mr Lili owe Cape Town residents an apology for their violent behaviour.”
Lili, Mzwithemba Victor Gulwa, Yadani Kulanti, Thembela Mbanjwa, Xoliswa Ngwekazi, Yanga Mlingwana and Phamela Nyakaza appeared before Magistrate Jasthree Steyn.
The seven were charged with contravening a municipal by-law dictating the proper removal of human waste. The alternative charges related to conspiring or inciting under the Riotous Assemblies Act.
They were arrested with 176 protesters who disembarked from two carriages at the Esplanade train station in Woodstock last June.
Several people had allegedly been carrying portable flush toilets and singing freedom songs which included a reference to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille as a dog.
Some carried human waste in blue municipal bags contained in milk crates.
Lili identified himself to a warrant officer who asked him what they were doing at the station. Apparently Lili had said they were on their way to Cape Town to throw faeces at the provincial legislature.
Charges were later withdrawn against the 176 protesters.
Steyn found that although the seven chose not to testify in their own defence, the State had provided insufficient evidence to prove their culpability on all charges.
He said the prosecution had been a “futile exercise”, made worse by the numerous inconsistencies in the testimonies of four police witnesses.
Addressing a peaceful crowd outside the court on Wednesday, Lili said Zille should apologise to those she has “targeted” in faeces-throwing campaigns.
“Within seven days, Helen Zille must go public and apologise to Ses'Khona as well as apologise to the informal settlements of Cape Town,” he said.
“There is nothing wrong that Ses'Khona has done other than to fight for the rights of the people. They have to clear their name.”
Lili said he would sue Zille if she did not apologise, but did not specify the exact basis of the legal action.