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Durban - Two brothers acquitted of assault and crimen injuria charges for their part in an alleged racist nightclub brawl, on Thursday said they were relieved the ordeal was over.
Jean Pierre (JP) du Plooy, who had been charged with his brother Nicholas, told the Daily News he hoped everyone would now realise he and his brother were not racists.
“We were made out to be something we’re not.
“When we were charged, we were both victimised by our peers and colleagues, but now finally, the truth has come out,” said JP, 25, who got married last month. Nicholas said he had lost his job as a result of the case.
Their mother, Donna du Plooy, burst into tears. “I am just so relieved and happy this nightmare is over,” she said, hugging her sons.
Their father, Nico, said he was “utterly relieved”.
“We are just so happy that the truth is out. This has been hell for us, and has had serious implications for our family,” Nico said, adding that the case had taken a financial and emotional toll.
The brothers’ legal bills stand at about R150 000. Pietermaritzburg Regional Court magistrate Linda Lewis acquitted the two on the basis that she was left with two mutually destructive versions - that of the State and that of the defence - and based on the evidence, she was unsure which version to believe.
The brothers had been accused of assaulting and insulting Likandi Mbumwae in September 2011.
The brothers pleaded not guilty and said they were forced to act in self-defence.
Mbumwae, a Pietermaritzburg University of KwaZulu-Natal student, told the court the brothers had assaulted him outside Crowded House nightclub on September 1.
Mbumwae alleged that they taunted him after he arrived at the club with his friend, a white American exchange student called Rachael. Mbumwae, a BCom student, told the court the brothers had called him a k***** and the woman a “monkey-lover”. He said the brothers then punched him repeatedly.
The magistrate said it was clear from the evidence that it was Mbumwae who challenged Nicholas to a “one-on-one” fight. “I do not understand why he challenged the accused. It would have been easier to avoid the confrontation,” Lewis said.
The magistrate also explained that Mbumwae had left out material facts in his statement and testimony that would have given the State vital information to formulate proper charges against the brothers.
Lewis said it was also evident that the medical evidence did not support Mbumwae’s version of events, and CCTV footage of the alleged assault was blurred and did not take the State’s case any further.
“In the circumstances and the evidence placed before the court, it is difficult to ascertain who is telling the truth.”
She said it was unfortunate that racism was still rife. Mbumwae had seemed genuinely aggrieved by the alleged racist insults the brothers had made, but said the State had not called any witnesses to corroborate his allegations.
She therefore had no choice but to acquit the two young brothers.