There is a possibility that more suspects could be added to the list of accused and the police need to follow up on that information
BAIL of R1 000 each was yesterday granted to the four men linked to the murder of well-known local businessman Piet Els, while the case was postponed for five months.
The incident occurred on Els’ farm on January 23, 2018, when he and his 67-year-old partner were viciously attacked and tortured by a group of men who forced their way into Els’ farmhouse situated on Schmidtsdrift Road just outside of Kimberley.
Els, 87, sustained multiple injuries, including burn wounds on his body, a head injury and stab wounds.
He was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) at Mediclinic Gariep after the incident, where he died on May 15, 2018, almost four months after the attack, as a result of the injuries he sustained during the attack.
His partner, who also suffered multiple injuries, including burn wounds and cuts, was discharged from hospital.
The attackers fled the scene in Els’ white Mercedes-Benz after allegedly stealing firearms, Krugerrands, jewellery, cash and cellphones. The car was later found abandoned next to the R31 road to Barkly West.
A diamond ring valued at
R1.5 million rand, which was stolen during the incident, was, according to the investigating officer, found in the possession of one of the accused, Morapedi Rankali, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
The case against Rankali and his co-accused, Motlalentswe Qautse, Thuso Ramollo and Lebohang Melesi, was postponed to July by the Northern Cape High Court yesterday.
This was after the State indicated to the court that an intensive investigation was being conducted into the matter and more arrests were pending.
The State, represented by advocate Hannes Cloete, said that although bail applications were not normally conducted in the high court, the circumstances in this matter had necessitated it.
“The State concedes that this is not an ideal situation as the high court is not a place to ask for a postponement for further investigations into a matter. It is not the norm. However, the police are currently taking this matter very seriously. The current investigating officer (IO) also had to take over the duties of the former investigating officer. There is a possibility that more suspects could be added to the list of accused and the police need to follow up on that information.
“There is also a warrant of arrest that has been issued for another suspect,” added Cloete.
He said that the State needed more time to be trial ready due to new facts that will be added to the case.
“We are dealing with an extremely serious matter and the allegations are just as serious. The State also has to acknowledge that the accused have rights. The accused have been in custody since their arrest and some were already arrested in 2018. The State is also not trial ready and the new facts that will be added to the case adds to the request that the matter be postponed. The fact that the State is not trial ready and the case against the individual accused can be seen as exceptional circumstances which permits them being granted bail. The reason for the lengthy postponement is hopefully to determine a trial date and the serving of a final indictment.”
The legal representatives of the accused agreed with the State that there were exceptional circumstances present that would allow for the accused to be granted bail and the matter to be postponed.
The legal representatives said the accused had been in custody for a long time and added that they would not have a problem with conditions imposed by the court.
The legal representative of Rankali and Qautse, Lentswe Setouto, indicated to the court that although Rankali is a Lesotho national, he is no longer in possession of his passport.
“The accused has been in custody since 2018 and intends pleading not guilty to the charges against him. The accused was in possession of a passport but handed it over to the previous investigating officer when he was arrested. The accused was staying in Galeshewe when he was arrested. The person with whom he had been staying has in the meantime moved but the accused does have alternative accommodation in Galeshewe where he will be staying while he is out on bail,” said Setouto.
He said that Qautse, who is a South African citizen, had indicated that he would hand over his passport to officials.
“The accused was denied bail during his application in the lower courts. The accused was arrested in February 2018 and has been in custody since. This matter has been postponed on various occasions and there is no indication when the investigations will be complete. Those factors constitute a postponement. Although the accused is in possession of a passport, he does not have any problem with handing it over to the investigating officer. The accused also does not have any problem with conditions being imposed by the court,” he said.
Cloete requested the court to grant the accused bail of R1 000 each and that they report to the Galeshewe police station every Tuesday and Friday between 9am and 3pm.
Qautse was also instructed to hand in his passport to the investigating officer.