The man accused of gunning down two African National Congress (ANC) activists in June was released on bail of R5 000 in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.
Magistrate Miranda Boikhutso released Bonginkosi Shabalala on bail and ordered him to stay in the Bulwer area where he was to report to police three times a week. He was also ordered to refrain from participating in any political activities.
Shabalala is accused of gunning down the two ANC activists — Badedile Tshapa, 56, and Phetheni Ngubane, 50 – in Pietermaritzburg’s Ward 12 as they left a branch election meeting at Mehlokazulu High School on June 8.
Tshapa died at the scene while Ngubane died in hospital the next day. Police initially arrested three suspects, but two were released before appearing in court, as there was no evidence linking them to the killings.
Handing down her decision, Boikhutso said Shabalala had presented a solid case for him to be released on bail. She said that while the State had argued against bail, alleging that Shabalala was an Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) member who was against the ANC campaigning in the area in which he lived, it had failed to present any evidence backing such an allegation.
Supporters of the two activists openly wept at the decision, while supporters of Shabalala cheered in celebration.
The police’s Tactical Response Team maintained a highly visible presence inside the court and outside in a bid to prevent any confrontations between Shabalala’s supporters and those of the two activists.
The case was adjourned to August 23 to allow police to carry out further investigations.