The trial against African National Congress (ANC) Eastern Cape heavyweight Andile Lungisa and fellow ANC councillor, Gamalihleli Maqula, finally got underway under tight security in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
Lungisa and Maqula, both councillors in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, pleaded not guilty to charges of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm, relating to a fight that broke out in council chambers on October 27, 2016.
Lungisa is accused of smashing a glass jug over the head of mayoral committee member for transport, Rano Kayser, while Maqula is accused of stabbing chief whip Werner Senekal in the back with a sharp object.
Prosecutor, Wayne Ludick, called Democratic Alliance (DA) councillor, Renaldo Gouws, as his first witness. Gouws told the court he had taken a number of videos on the day on his cellphone.
He said he had felt threatened by the behaviour of the ANC councillors, who had become unruly when Speaker, Jonathan Lawack, asked ANC councillor Xola Sabani to leave the chamber.
Gouws said the councillors started protesting, tearing papers and throwing it in the air, and also protected Sabani from security sent to remove him.
Playing the video to court, Gouws said he had slowed the footage down for proceedings, but still had the original files on his phone, for review if necessary.
As the video played, Kayser can be seen approaching the speaker’s podium where Lungisa was standing. As Kayser approaches, Lungisa lifts a large glass jug into the air. Kayser first tries to wrestle the jug away, but then his arm goes up in self defence as the jug crashes down onto his head.
During cross-examination, defence attorney Luthando Ngqakayi pointed out that Gouws had also breached council regulations by making the recording.
Gouws said he had admitted to making the video and had paid a R50 fine for doing so. He said council had installed CCTV cameras following the violence in October.
Following Gouw’s testimony, speaker Lawack said he had asked Sabani to leave the chamber following his unruly behaviour. When he failed to do so, he had asked the city manager, Johan Mettler to have him removed by security.
Lawack said the ANC councillors had prevented the security from getting to Sabani, and that that was when: “All hell broke loose.”
He said two councillors – Lungisa and another ANC councillor, Makhi Feni – had approached him.
“It was clear from their approach that their intention was to intimidate me and attack me physically. They meant business,” he said.
Lawack said Feni had reached him and grabbed him by the arm, before a colleague had intervened and broke them apart. He then witnessed Lungisa attack Kayser.
Kayser said when he regained consciousness he was being assisted by colleagues and later medics from the ambulance service.
He said he was taken to St Georges hospital, where he received stitches to the left temple, and had cuts and bruising on his arm and neck. He said he also had to have glass removed from his neck and chest.
The case continues on Tuesday.
– African News Agency (ANA)