Deputy minister hijacking suspects say cops tortured them
Johannesburg - Two of the four men accused of hijacking and kidnapping Deputy Justice Minister Thabang Makwetla have claimed they were tortured by police investigators.
They have also claimed that the identity parade used to identify two of them was tainted as the deputy minister had already seen them at a previous court appearance and therefore knew their faces.
Mojalefa Mathe, Gidion Motsepe, Brandon Katlego Mashego and Ben Kutumela, were arrested earlier this year for allegedly kidnapping Makwetla at gunpoint while he was in his Range Rover, and forcing him to draw money from his bank account and then dumping him in the veld where he feared he was going to be executed.
Before their arrest, the four were on bail for other similar crimes, and were seeking bail in this matter as they believed it could be months before the case was finalised.
At the group’s combined bail application this week in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court, Mathe and Motsepe made claims that they were subjected to “physical and emotional torture” while in custody.
This was allegedly in a bid by police to garner further information on the incident.
The pair also said the identity parade was a farce, as the deputy minister had seen them at a court appearance in August before pointing them out. At that appearance, a woman in the gallery had tried to photograph the group with her cellphone, which the presiding magistrate at the time discovered. He ensured that the woman deleted the image before proceedings continued. However, Mathe and Motsepe were insistent that the woman had accompanied the minister, and this was highly suspicious.
However, Yusuf Baba, the prosecutor in charge of the bail application, asked for the proceedings to be postponed to put together affidavits to vehemently deny the claims.
Outside court this week, Makwetla told the Saturday Star he did not know the woman who had tried to take the photo, and that it was likely her ignorance of the court processes had led to her poor behaviour.
Regarding the torture allegations, Makwetla said he had been taken “completely by surprise” by the claims.
“I felt there was no pressure from the police, as they already have a large amount of evidence linking these men to the crime. It will be up to the court to establish the veracity of the claims.”
Investigating officer Werner van den Bergh also submitted an affidavit explaining the evidence discovered against the four men, and reasoning as to why they should not be granted bail.
The affidavit said Mashego had already confessed to committing the crime, and had assisted police in arresting the others. Cellphone records for Mashego, Motsepe and Kutumela had proven their presence in the area at the time of the kidnapping.
Mathe’s face was also clearly visible on CCTV footage at the crime scene.
“From the facts at hand, I’m convinced the accused form part of a syndicate involved in the commission of this crime because after the hijacking the Range Rover was sold to a Nigerian,” Van den Bergh’s affidavit read.