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South African soldiers denied bail in car smuggling case

by Staff reporter
06 Aug 2021 at 08:44hrs | Views
Seven SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members who allegedly helped to ferry suspected stolen vehicles across the Zimbabwean border were denied bail, following reports that they were planning to escape.

SANDF members Rapula Reuben Maidi, 49, from Ikageng; Edward Lepokola, 48, from Sebokeng; Bulelani Danti, 29, from Qonce; Ludwe Gwedashe from Gqeberha; Thembani Mjelo, 31, from East London; Marks Funeka, 49, from Carletonville; and Peter Thato Namane, 51, from Soshanguve appeared in Musina Magistrate's Court, sitting in Louistrichaardt, on Thursday.

They were arrested in June.

It is alleged that from June 2019 to February 2020, the accused accepted a bribe of R15 000 to allow stolen vehicles to cross the border to Zimbabwe, said regional National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi.

"The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) received information about SANDF members who were assisting vehicle-smuggling syndicates to smuggle suspected stolen vehicles through the Limpopo River. The Hawks and the military police, in a joint operation, managed to arrest the suspects," Malabi-Dzhangi said.

During the bail proceedings, evidence emerged of the accused's alleged plans to escape from custody.

"During the bail proceedings, the applicants did not testify and filed affidavits in support of their bail applications. The prosecution, in opposing, led the evidence of the investigating officer and three other police officers. The police officers testified that they had received a message that the accused are planning to escape from custody; they are arranging to hire a sangoma to eliminate the investigating team and the prosecutor," Malabi-Dzhangi said.

The accused reportedly used their cellphones and later those of police employees at the cells for a fee of R100 to make arrangements.

In denying them bail, the court indicated that the accused failed to prove the existence of exceptional circumstances to warrant their release on bail, Malabi-Dzhangi said.

The case has been postponed to 1 September for further investigations.

Source - news24