Security chief had bird’s eye view of major court cases
Cape Town - Alleged gang bosses and the man dubbed the “station strangler” were among the criminals the chief security officer at the Mitchells Plain Magistrate’s Court had to ensure were safe, along with the public and staff during his 27-year-career at the courthouse.
In January this year Colin De Hart, 56, of Beacon Valley, ended his nearly three decades career at the courthouse and took retirement.
But his dedication to safety does not end there.
De Hart still continues to keep his area safe as the vice-chairperson of the Mitchells Plain Community Policing Forum, the chairperson of the Beacon Valley Neighbourhood Watch, a commissioner of oaths and part of the local organising committee of the Mitchells Plain marching drill.
During his time at the courthouse, De Hart had many highlights witnessing prominent cases taking place such as that of alleged gang boss Glen Khan, who was murdered in 1999, and the court appearance of school teacher Norman “Afzal” Simons, the Station Strangler, both at the time of his arrest and again 2008 during an inquest into the deaths of six young boys.
He ironically was also part of the team searching for young boys who disappeared in Mitchells Plain during the 1990s.
Simons was arrested in 1994 and a year later convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Elroy van Rooyen, 10. He was sentenced to 10 years for kidnapping and 25 years for murder.
The Station Strangler became a household name after the bodies of 22 young boys were found across Cape Town, from 1986 to 1994.
In January 1994, Cape Town was rocked by the discovery of 11 bodies in the strangler’s so-called killing fields on the outskirts of Mitchells Plain.
De Hart said: “I remember the Khan brothers, the taxi war violence cases and even Rashied Staggie, who appeared here before his murder in 2019.
“That time during the Strangler case, I was part of the group searching for children in areas where the Liberty Promenade mall is today and that is where my interaction with the community began.
“I had a good working relationship with advocate Vernon Jantjies, I saw him move from the prosecuting bench to advocate and magistrate.
“When he was murdered in December 2019, I was so shocked.”
He said that safety took preference over everything else.
“I had to ensure that the public and staff were safe and even assisting the public when their loved ones were appearing here.”
But his career came with a lot of challenges and temptation, with corruption and bribery deals coming to his attention.
He had once been the whistle-blower in such cases and had rejected any form of bribery or corruption.
“I had been approached to move drugs or dockets because they knew I had access, I had the keys to all the doors and gates here but I never ever accepted any form of bribery or corruption.
“When I left here in January, I left with a clean record and hardly took a day off sick in my nearly 30 years. I would be placing up the court rolls even when it was after hours.
“I used to report stuff when I saw corruption taking place or drugs and illegal items being moved inside the courthouse,” he said.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, the court system also had to adapt.
“I was very strict when it came to wearing masks and keeping an area safe and that meant even coming in after hours to secure an area or telling people they could not come inside the court if they did not have a mask.”
Nuraan Abrahams, a clerk at the court, commended De Hart for his diligence.
“He was always the one who would go the extra mile, even if he was not on duty,” said Abrahams.