Magistrate Gavin Pillay told the Westonaria Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday that the State’s case against the 42 accused was weak and questionable and said the investigating officer in the matter was “ill-prepared”, “evasive” and “failed to present facts” while being cross-examined.
Pillay was addressing the court when he granted each accused R5,000 bail.
The accused have been ordered to surrender their passports; not to visit the church headquarters in Zuurbekom and not to interfere with witnesses.
“The State’s case is questionable at this juncture. I am satisfied to make a finding that at this juncture – indeed the State’s case is weak. Bail in regard to all the accused should be granted. I believe the accused have a case to answer and bail should be fixed at R5 000 each,” Pillay said.
The court had earlier heard evidence from investigating officer Sergeant George Maditse that one of the accused was a Lesotho national and did not possess any legal documents to be in the country.
Maditse said parents of the accused confirmed their son was born in Lesotho and didn’t have papers to be in the country.
However, Pillay also granted the man bail.
During his ruling, Pillay said Maditse failed to place some of the accused at the crime scene.
“Maditse could not identify which of the firearms recovered were carried by which suspect. There was lack of direct evidence on this matter. Maditse didn’t place firearms in the hands of the accused or else he was ill-prepared for the bail application.
“His statement didn’t support his evidence. Maditse was evasive and should not have hidden information to develop a case. He needed to present facts. Perhaps things will change during the course of the investigations.
“He could not place all accused at the scene. When we apply the principle of common purpose, the State didn’t prove common purpose.
“However, the investigations are still to be finalised and the scenario might change,” said Pillay.
On 11 July, the church came under attack from armed men who stormed its premises in Zuurbekom, on the West Rand, which resulted in five people being killed, four of them set alight and two vehicles torched.
A number of people, including women and children, were also taken hostage by the gunmen. They were later freed by the police’s Specialised Task Force members.
Gates of the church headquarters were also damaged and police collected over 300 spent cartridges on the scene.
They also recovered a number of weapons and some of them were not registered in the country.
The case has been postponed to 27 November.