Bheki Cele says law and order will be enforced as Francois van der Merwe returns to Groblersdal court

A crowd of people

Police reinforcements were deployed to the Groblersdal Magistrate's Court in Limpopo and 25-year-old Francois Van Der Merwe was arrested for allegedly attacking police. Picture: Screengrab/X

Published Jan 31, 2024

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Police Minister, General Bheki Cele said adequate deployment of law enforcement agents has been made, ahead of the court appearance of one of the demonstrators who was arrested during skirmishes at the Groblersdal Magistrate’s Court.

Francois van der Merwe, 25, was part a group of demonstrators during a previous court appearance of a Limpopo father and son who allegedly assaulted and set their dog on an employee.

Pieter Groenewald and his son Stephan appeared before the Groblersdal Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, and their case was postponed to February 7. The father and son face attempted murder charges and were remanded in custody.

Van der Merwe is set to appear in court on Thursday after he was arrested during a previous court appearance of the Groenewalds. He was remanded in custody, and is expected to apply for bail on Thursday.

Police Minister Bheki Cele and Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola on Wednesday attended the court of appearance of Pieter Groenewald and his son Stephan who are facing charges of attempted murder. Picture: Screengrab

Van der Merwe is facing charges of assault on police and interference with police in the execution of their duties.

“The police are ready for whatever eventuality, that is why they are here today. They will be handling that, and they know their duty. That is why I reminded them that theirs is to uphold the law. If other people refuse to uphold the law, theirs is to enforce the law. Ours is to defend and make sure that the law takes place, starting from now, we are ready to handle the situation,” said Cele.

The minister, flanked by Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola and Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha spoke to journalists as the Groenewald father and son appeared in court on Wednesday.

Police Minister Bheki Cele and Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola on Wednesday attended the court of appearance of Pieter Groenewald and his son Stephan who are facing charges of attempted murder. Picture: Screengrab

In addition, Mathabatha said the provincial authorities will also make deployments to avoid disturbances at the court.

“What needs to be put straight is that the law must be maintained. The law and order must be maintained and enforced. As the minister is promising us here, nothing is going to be left to chance.

“He is going to make sure that law and order is maintained, even here in Groblersdal. Groblersdal cannot be made to be an enclave of any other thing,” said Mathabatha.

Police in Limpopo last week said Van der Merwe was arrested during the standoff at court, when one of the police officers assigned to maintain order was “violently” pushed to the ground.

“The reinforcement from police came to their colleagues’ rescue and arrested the suspect (Van der Merwe),” according to Limpopo provincial police spokesperson, Colonel Malesela Ledwaba.

The arrest of 25-year-old Francois Van Der Merwe outside the Groblersdal Magistrate’s Court in Limpopo earlier this month. Picture: Screengrab/X

“The suspect is allegedly also facing charges of assault in Gauteng province. Police investigations are continuing.”

Regarding the Groenewalds’ case, police at the time said Pieter Groenewald, a security company owner, 63, and his son Stephan, 27, were arrested for assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

“According to the preliminary information, a 30-year-old victim was performing his guard duties at a network tower battery at Kwaggafontein, Mpumalanga province, when his supervisor paid an oversight visit,” said Ledwaba.

The supervisor then accused the security guard of being intoxicated while on duty.

“As a result, he (supervisor) drove with him (security guard) to Groblersdal in Limpopo province to discuss the matter with the manager. Upon arrival, the two got into an argument that resulted in the manager hitting the victim with a hard object.”

“The security manager allegedly instructed a male relative to unleash their pet dog on the victim. The dog bit the victim on both legs.”

The security guard reported the incident to police, and a case of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm was opened.

The two suspects, Piet Groenewald and his son Stephan, were then traced and arrested the following day.

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