The court appearance of a man accused of attempted murder and intimidation of Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) members and gender activists in Harare in Cape Town resulted in about 50 TAC members demonstrating outside the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s court (16/07/2008). The TAC members, holding placards with slogans such as “show him no mercy” and “strong sentence for those who interrupt TAC” cheered upon hearing that accused Yanga Janet’s case was to be transferred to the regional court.
The TAC members vowed they would protest at all the accused’s court appearances until he receives the sentence they believe he deserves. They say they are happy that the case has been moved to the regional court as it is able to impose stricter sentences than the Magistrate’s court. The TAC members said a harsh sentence meted out to Janet would convey a message to other “gangsters” who terrorists social rights activists in communities.
Janet, 22, appeared briefly before magistrate Maya Prag and was told that he will go on trial in the regional court late next week. Prag told Janet that yesterday’s appearance was meant to be a bail application but a bail hearing would not proceed as he elected to abandon his bail application when he appeared before the court early last month.
Janet is accused of attacking and intimidating TAC members and gender activists associated with the Simelela gender rights organisation. The state alleges that Janet shot TAC member Mandla Nkunkuma in the back on the night of December 16, 2005, after Nkunkuma and others had rushed to the scene where one of their fellow TAC members, Nandipha Makeke, had been raped and murdered.
Janet was arrested shortly thereafter and charged with Makeke’s murder, as well as the attempted murder of Nkumkuma. But the docket related to Nkumkuma’s attempted murder went missing, and Janet, along with Zukile Fumbata, was acquitted in March in Makeke’s murder trial due to lack of evidence.
Two co-accused, Bonga Sibozi, 19, and Thembinkosi Tukani, 27, were sentenced each to 20 years behind bars for Makeke’s murder. Janet received no bail during the murder trial and ended up sitting behind bars for over two years before being released after his acquittal.
However, the attempted murder docket mysteriously re-appeared on April 1 this year, albeit with Nkumkuma’s medical records missing. The case was re-opened after the TAC acquired the necessary medical records from Tygerberg hospital, where Nkunkuma received medical attention, and Janet was re-arrested on May 16 this year.
Janet has also has an interim interdict from the Cape High Court against him, preventing him from harassing or intimidating TAC members following a TAC submission to the court in April stating that they and Simelela gender activists in Harare, Khayelitsha, were subjected to physical and verbal attacks by Janet and “a loose association of gangsters”.
* Reporting by Sandiso Phaliso