Members of the Ekangala community have responded with fury after a local man, Happy Mahlangu, was beaten to death, allegedly by four police constables.

The officers, two men and two women aged between 24 and 30 years, from the Ekangala police station near Bronkhorstspruit, are expected to apply for bail next week Tuesday and appeared briefly in the Ekangala Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

Forty-year-old Mahlangu, believed to be his family’s sole breadwinner, was arrested on Christmas Day for allegedly driving an unroadworthy vehicle. He was beaten on the same day and died in custody.

Members of the Ekangala community gathered outside the court, demanding justice.

They said if the accused were granted bail they would take the law into their own hands.

“Since this incident happened Ekangala has turned to be like Marikana,” said a police officer at Ekangala police station who asked not to be named for safety reasons.

The police officer at the station confirmed the constables’ suspension and said the matter has been handed over to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.

The officer claimed the community had been protesting “too much” since Mahlangu’s death. “The community acts like we like what happened but we do not. However, we have to support our colleagues and let justice take its course,” the officer said.

The officer said the constables had not been replaced by temporary officers and the station was short-staffed.

The magistrate assigned to the case resigned yesterday, claiming he had dealt with the police officers before in court.

He recused himself, because he felt he would have been prejudiced.

A new magistrate has been assigned to handle the case and will preside over the bail application.

Meanwhile, in a separate incident, a 40-year-old police officer from the OR Tambo police station in Kempton Park appeared in the Bronkhorstspruit Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday after he was arrested for driving a vehicle alleged to have been stolen.

The matter was postponed for further investigation by the Vehicle Investigation Unit in Pretoria West and will resume next Friday, said Gauteng Traffic Police spokesman Obed Sibasa. The officer was arrested in Bapsfontein at a roadside checkpoint on Tuesday. - Pretoria News