DURBAN - The family of late councillor Sindiso Magaqa fear for their lives after three men arrested in connection with his death were released on R5 000 bail each in the Ixopo Magistrate’s Court in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday.
Magaqa was the ANC Youth League secretary-general. He was shot while parking his Mercedes-Benz at his home in uMzimkhulu after attending a meeting in July 2017.
Two others who were with him survived the shooting. Magaqa died in hospital in September 2017.
The accused are former police officer Sibonelo Myeza, businessman Mbulelo Mpofana and Mlungisi Ncalane. The men were arrested on March 17, 2018, and were awaiting trial. Their bail application in May 2019 was unsuccessful. The trial has been set for July 18 in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
Magaqa’s brother, Lwazi Magaqa, said the family was shocked by the decision, saying the release of the accused brought new fears that someone might try to silence him because he has demanded justice.
“I fear for my life and that of my family. My mother would be hurt the most emotionally if she heard those allegedly involved were back on the street.”
Thabiso Zulu, Magaqa’s friend, also expressed shock, saying he was hoping that justice would be served.
The release was also questioned by community activist Vanessa Burger, who penned an opinion piece complaining about the court’s decision.
Burger became prominent after demanding that police arrest the perpetrators of violence at Glebelands hostel in Durban. She described the release of the suspects as “astounding” and claimed that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) did not oppose bail.
Burger questioned why the accused, after having been repeatedly denied bail since their arrest in 2018, were suddenly released.
Natasha Kara, spokesperson for the NPA, said the State did oppose the release and was considering appealing the decision.
Burger further argued that to qualify for bail in a murder case the accused must first provide “exceptional circumstances” – bail was not a right, but a privilege when charges were this serious and said she wondered what, if any, “exceptional circumstances” and “new facts” the accused had managed to present to warrant their release now, and for such a paltry sum.
“Yes, the case has been delayed and justice delayed is justice denied. But the delays have mostly resulted from the accused’s own actions, changing lawyers for example, while delays wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic, although impacting severely on the … overburdened justice system, can hardly justify the release into society of allegedly dangerous killers,” she said.
Magaqa had been vocal about alleged corruption in uMzimkhulu Local Municipality where he was a councillor.