Cape Town - Three Mitchells Plain clerics who claim they set out to nab a man suspected of swindling thousands from unsuspecting citizens with the promise of housing, have instead been charged with kidnapping, armed robbery and indecent assault.
Erefaan Martin, 47, and his co-accused Faried Hendricks, 51, and Shahied Lakay, 43, were released on bail by the Athlone Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday after spending five weeks in prison.
The three Muslim clerics also face charges of intimidation, common assault and impersonating a police officer.
The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) came out in support of the men in a letter to the court, saying they were “exemplary characters” as community leaders.
In an affidavit handed into the court on Wednesday, Martin, a father of three, recalled how he, Hendricks, Lakay and other residents had been introduced to a man who claimed to be from the City of Cape Town.
The man had promised to arrange gap housing for disadvantaged families in exchange for R10 000.
When attempts to contact the man failed and it was confirmed that he was not a city employee, Martin, along with other people who had also allegedly been swindled, devised a plan to confront the man.
“Hendricks posed as a prospective buyer and convinced the man to meet him at the Athlone Police Station where the R10 000 would be exchanged,” it read.
“A large group of people then confronted (the man) when he admitted liability and begged us not to press charges.”
Martin said they had made arrangements with the man to collect their refunds at a public location near Vangate Mall on January 9.
“Suddenly a large number of police officers took us into custody,” it read.
On the charge sheet, the man accuses them of forcing him into a car and driving around for several hours before holding him up at gunpoint for R26 000.
The clerics, who all work for the Mitchells Plain Welfare Organisation, were released on R2 000 bail each because they had no previous criminal records.
The conditions of their bail were that they give their passports to the investigating officer and not contact the State witnesses.
About 30 people who earlier had filled the court’s public gallery in support of the men, waited outside the court to greet them as they were released from custody.
In letters handed to the court, the MJC, along with other Muslim organisations, gave testimony to the clerics’s characters and their social development projects.
Batchelor and Associates attorney Eric Louw said it was sad to see men imprisoned on “fabricated charges” while the police still conducted their investigation.
“Their families were the ones who suffered the most while the men were in prison. Our main concern is for the police to do a proper investigation into this case.
“They are religious leaders and work hard for their community,” he said.
Louw said they had found people swindled out of about R200 000 and expected to find more unsuspecting victims.
The matter has been postponed to May 15 for further investigation.