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Suspects appear under heavy guard

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Several suspects on the roll did not appear in court, with the State indicating that they had mistakenly been taken to Galeshewe Magistrate’s Court

IN COURT: Suspects appeared in the Kimberley Magistrates Court following the violent protests last week. Picture: Norma Wildenboer

FORTY-seven people appeared under heavy police guard in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court yesterday in connection with the violent protests that broke out in Kimberley last week.

The large group of suspects were among those arrested since last Thursday on charges of contravening the Regulations of Gatherings Act, relating to taking part in an illegal protest, as well as housebreaking, relating to a spate of looting incidents

More than 20 uniformed police officials lined the walls and benches of the courtroom as the 47 suspects were brought in from the holding cells. They took up not only the entire accused’s bench, but also the first four rows of the public gallery.

Outside the courtroom, police barricaded the street with barbed wire and denied entry to anyone whose name did not appear on a court roll, in an attempt to keep any protesters outside.

About six family members, who had earlier gained entry to the court, waited inside until around 3pm, when the large group of suspects finally appeared.

“I am worried sick. My husband was arrested on Friday and I don’t know if he even has a blanket while he is being kept in the holding cells. Our children are also concerned, as they miss their father and want to know if he is okay,” one woman in the gallery said.

She did, however, commend the police for “doing their best to inform and keep me updated on the situation”.

During the appearance, the senior public prosecutor in Kimberley, Tebogo Namisa, indicated that all 47 suspects’ addresses had been confirmed and that “most” had no previous convictions or pending cases, and he requested that they be released on warning, for further investigation and a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Magistrate Lance Roach granted the postponement and the 47 suspects were warned to appear on August 24 or face re-arrest and be remanded in custody.

He further warned that if any of them were found to be involved in the commission of any offence they would also be re-arrested and remanded in custody.

After the group’s appearance, a further 15 suspects appeared individually and in small groups in connection with the protests and looting, also facing housebreaking and contravention of the Regulation of Gatherings Act.

The majority of them were also released on warning, although some (alleged to be involved in looting and facing housebreaking charges) were given R200 bail each.

Several suspects on the roll did not appear in court, with the State indicating that they had mistakenly been taken to Galeshewe Magistrate’s Court.

However, at around 5pm a truck carrying the “missing” suspects arrived at court and proceedings continued until well after 5pm, with cashiers being forced to work overtime to accommodate those being granted bail.

Outside the court, a few dozen members of the public eagerly awaited the release of the suspects from custody while it was already getting dark.