A Pietermaritzburg gun salesman who allegedly shot dead an off-duty policeman during a “road rage incident” will remain behind bars until his bail application.
The policeman’s family are now calling for swift justice for their son and brother, who performed his civic duties with “discipline and pride”.
Asad Haniff Ramjan, 29, an employee at a local gun shop, allegedly shot Constable Thabani Gwala multiple times during the altercation in Oribi Road, Pietermaritzburg, on Monday morning.
Gwala, 35, of KwaSwayimane, was a member of the Public Order Policing Unit, based at the Alexander police station.
Ramjan appeared in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on a charge of murder.
The courtroom was filled with family, friends and colleagues of Gwala.
Ramjan’s attorney, Ashraf Mahomed, said the accused’s family were distraught at what had happened.
“Asad being held in custody until his bail application, has also added to their trauma. Unfortunately, two worlds have been changed forever,” said Mahomed.
Ramjan, who had an injury to his head, appeared calm and was soft-spoken when questioned by the court. He told the court that he had no previous convictions or pending cases against him.
The State will oppose his bail application on November 21, citing Ramjan’s safety concern and that of the witnesses.
According to a police source, it has been alleged that Gwala, who was off duty at the time, was travelling in a VW Polo and Ramjan in a Toyota Run-X when the alleged incident happened.
The source alleged it was a road rage incident and at some point both men jumped out of their respective vehicles and a physical fight ensued.
“It has been alleged that during the fight Constable Gwala overpowered Ramjan. However, Ramjan allegedly drew his firearm and shot Constable Gwala several times,” said the source.
Gwala died instantly and Ramjan was arrested at the scene.
Speaking outside court, Mfundo Ngubane said he was in a meeting when he received a call that his brother Thabani had been shot.
“I immediately rushed to the scene where I was told by police that there was an altercation following a road rage incident and my brother was shot dead. I could not believe his life had been taken so cruelly.”
Ngubane said as a family they were distraught and “deeply hurt”.
“He was everything to us. He leaves behind a baby, who will now grow up without a father. As a brother he was protective, loving and kind.”
He said Constable Gwala wanted to be a policeman from the time he was a teenager.
“Thabani wanted to make this world a better place. He carried out his duties as a Public Order Policing officer with discipline and pride. He restored our community's faith in the police."
Ngubane said with the festive season approaching, law enforcement would have one less member to help fight crime.
“As a family we need justice. He was helping protect our country every day. People cannot be so trigger happy,” said Ngubane.
Claire Taylor, a researcher at Gun Free South Africa, said guns were designed to kill, so the presence of a gun increased the risk of an argument becoming a murder.
“Guns are the leading cause of murder in SA, with an average of 31 people shot and killed every day. Available information on the circumstances leading up to a murder shows that the majority of cases result from arguments or misunderstandings rather than being crime-related."
She said every single person shot and killed would be alive if there wasn’t a gun.
“Saving lives means reducing the availability of guns.”
Layton Beard from the AA said road rage in South Africa happened every day but seldom resulted in a killing.
“Research has found that road rage does not just happen, but is a culmination of a person having a bad day or a week. When they are cut off from the road the anger that they carry leads them to act in a violent manner,” he added.