Pretoria - National police commissioner Riah Phiyega announced on Thursday that she had assigned a team of renowned detectives to take over the murder case against paralympian Oscar Pistorius.
She told reporters in Pretoria that the current investigating officer and State witness in Pistorius’ bail application, Warrant Officer Hilton Botha, would be removed from the investigating team.
“With the process of the bail application over, I, as the national commissioner of police, am appointing a new team to take the matter on a long haul and Lt-Gen Vineshkumar Moonoo is leading that team. Investigating officer Botha is not part of that team,” she said.
“The leader of the team (Moonoo) is the top detective in (the) SAPS. He will be collaborating with the Gauteng provincial commissioner (Lt-Gen Mzwandile Petros) to put together a formidable team to do this job,” said Phiyega.
Police confirmed earlier in the day that seven attempted murder charges were hanging over Botha's head.
Phiyega said her office was aware of the events involving Botha that happened in 2011.
The charges against Botha were earlier provisionally withdrawn by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
“Upon finalisation of the initial investigation, the matter was referred to the NPA for a decision, which was received yesterday (Wednesday) and that necessitated this announcement,” she said.
Police said earlier in the day that in 2011 Botha allegedly fired shots at a minibus while trying to stop the vehicle. There were seven people inside at the time.
Earlier, Pistorius' lawyer had sought to dismantle the State's murder case against the athlete at his bail application in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Thursday.
“Your worship... the poor quality of the evidence of investigating officer (Hilton) Botha further exposed the disastrous shortcomings of the State's case,” argued advocate Barry Roux.
He said there was no evidence of the premeditated murder of Pistorius' girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp as alleged by the State, and that it was not mentioned on the charge sheet at all.
Pistorius is charged with murdering Steenkamp, which he has denied in an affidavit, saying he thought there was an intruder in the house when he shot into the toilet she was in.
“There is no evidence that the applicant knew it was Reeva in the toilet,” said Roux.
He called the police investigation “poor” and said the charge should not be schedule six, or even schedule five.
Speculation was rife over how the court would handle the news that Botha himself faces the attempted murder charges.
Regarding Botha’s performance in court, Phiyega refuted allegations that the police force had been embarrassed.
“There is nothing embarrassing for us... when we should be talking about embarrassing or a great performance, I am not a judge,” said Phiyega.
“We are continuing and putting our best foot forward. In my opinion, the SAPS is a very good (police) service which can stand its own against other services in the world,” she said. - Sapa