Africa-Press – South-Africa. The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has acquitted the four police officers accused of killing Mthokozisi Ntumba during a student protest in March 2021.
Ntumba was killed in Braamfontein during student protests over historical debt.
He had just left a doctor’s consultation at a clinic when he was shot dead, allegedly by the officers.
Tshephisho Kekana, 27, Cidraas Motseothatha, 43, Madimetja Legodi, 37, and Victor Mohammed, 51, faced charges of murder and attempted murder.
The State alleged that three students, who were waiting outside the Johannesburg Institute of Engineering and Technology College, were also shot and injured on that day.
After the State closed its case, the accused who had pleaded not guilty, and chose to remain silent, decided to bring an application in terms of Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act to be discharged.
Cops accused of killing Mthokozisi Ntumba amid student protest want case thrown out
Acting Judge Mawabo Malangeni granted the application.
During his lengthy judgment, Malangeni said the case needed to be dealt with on its own merits.
He said, in the video footage which was presented to court, the identity of the officials was unknown as they were wearing masks and in police uniform.
He said when the footage was played, no one had identified the accused, adding that the court could also not see any of the officials firing the shots.
“In these proceedings, there is no direct evidence in the form of eyewitness or witnesses, I mean to say that there is no person to say he or she saw the accused persons or any of them committing the offences in question,” the judge said.
“The State’s case is premised from circumstantial evidence, being the video footage.”
Malangeni said there had been 21 police officials on duty that day and there was no evidence that the accused were given different ammunition and firearms.
The firearms used on that day were shotguns with rubber bullets, he said.
He said ballistic analyses of the firearms should not have been confined to the accused, but to all 21 officers.
He also questioned why the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) only charged four people, because there had been more officers at the scene.
The judge added:
“Fortunately, courts do not base their decisions on public opinions and/or media reports, but on what has been presented before them.”
Malangeni found the accused not guilty and discharged them on all counts.
As he handed down his ruling, the accused appeared nervous, with some keeping their heads bowed.
But when the verdict was handed down, the accused broke into smiles, with one saying he was not scared to pose for photos anymore.
Meanwhile, Gauteng NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said they would study the judgment and, if there was an “indication that a fault at law might have been committed, then it will be used as grounds to appeal”.
“For now we cannot confirm whether we are taking the decision on review or not, up until we have studied the judgment and applied our minds.”
Advocate Thomas Mahope, representing Kekana, said what had happened was an “unfortunate incident that left people hurt and pained, but the law has taken its course”.
Advocate Emmanuel Netshipise, for Motseothatha, said: “I am relieved because these manifest that justice has been achieved for the accused, the public at large and their families. This just reinforced a long-standing legal principle that the prosecution cannot be commenced without the minimum of evidence required to convict the accused person.”