Pretoria - Former crime intelligence officer Morris Tshabalala, alias Captain KGB, is being treated like an animal and being denied his right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, his legal representative Advocate Annelene van den Heever said on Wednesday.
Addressing Magistrate Nicca Setshogoe in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Pretoria, Van den Heever protested as soon as Tshabalala, in leg irons and shackles, was escorted into the courtroom by a heavy contingent of armed police officers and correctional services guards.
“Allow me to interrupt my learned colleague [state prosecutor] and request that the shackles be removed from my client. I do not know why he is in shackles and accompanied by armed people in court,” said Van den Heever.
“When he was brought to court, he was kept in the back of the truck like an animal. He was not taken into cells. That infringes on my client’s right to be perceived innocent. He has the right to be treated fairly. Access to this court is also being restricted. This is supposed to be an open court.”
Setshogoe ordered that Tshabalala be unshackled, with correctional services officers obeying instantly.
Van den Heever then took issue with the presence of the numerous police officers, wielding R5 assault rifles, standing guard at the courtroom door.
“We counted at least 19 heavily armed people. It has not been like this during previous appearances. Today they are armed to the teeth,” she said.
Prosecutor Chris Smith told the court that security had been heightened because there were issues “relating to the security of the suspect”.
Setshogoe then postponed the bail application to March 23, allowing the defence and the prosecution to bring submissions on the security-related matters.
Tshabalala faces charges of fraud, theft and corruption. He is seeking bail for a second time, based on “new facts”.
He was arrested in December while checking in with his parole officer in Pretoria central and charged with theft and defrauding his employer, the South African Police Service.
The charges include theft and defrauding the crime intelligence’s secret slush fund of the SAPS of more than R500 000.
According to the charge sheet, Tshabalala, in one instance, defrauded the SAPS by falsifying that R470 000 was “needed to pay for blinds and curtains for a safe house” and he pocketed more than R200 000 from it.
He also faces a charge of corruption relating to R50 000 he received.
Despite having at least two criminal convictions, for armed robbery, masterminding a cash-in-transit heist and attempted murder, Tshabalala had the highest police clearance and was employed by the crime intelligence unit.
"Captain KGB" was previously arrested in 1994, and convicted in 1996 for robbery with aggravating circumstances. He was sentenced to ten years behind bars.
After serving just over two years at the Groenpunt Maximum Correctional Service Centre, Tshabalala was released. He was then re-employed by SAPS after he was released on parole.
Last week, Tshabalala was rushed to an external hospital after he reportedly tried to commit suicide in prison, after allegedly hearing that his parole had been revoked and he was now in jail as a sentenced prisoner.
At the time, Correctional Services told African News Agency (ANA) that Tshabalala was unwell.
“We can confirm that inmate Morris Lesiba Tshabalala had to be treated by our medical personnel after reporting that he was not feeling well,” said spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo.
“The inmate was stabilised and subsequently transferred to an outside facility for further medical examination.”
African News Agency/ANA