Zurenah Smit, accused of the murder of her wine farmer husband Stefan Smit, as well as one of her co-accused have been granted bail of R10,000, more than a month after their arrest.
But Smit and co-accused Derek Sait, a former police officer, remain behind bars as they still face charges of theft and illegal firearm and ammunition possession related to two guns believed to have been stolen from Smit’s safe in 2018.
One of these is believed to have been used to kill him on 2 June 2019.
Magistrate Sadiqah Haroun Guendouz said while they face Schedule Six charges – which puts the onus on the accused to prove there are exceptional circumstances for their release – the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in “strange and dire times” which have put strain on the economy, health care, and the justice system.
“So far, from my observations in this district alone, detainees had had to languish in custody for longer periods than they normally would. The turnaround time for the finalisation of matters have been severely impacted,” she said.
“The fact that [Sait] is the only breadwinner in his household and that [Smit] has a number of illnesses are in my view ordinary circumstances.
“However, when one puts it into the context of the times we now find ourselves, with a struggling economy and where co-morbidities can result in Covid-related deaths, these ordinary circumstances present themselves to an exceptional degree.”
She said the State had failed to show there are any reasonable grounds for the accused to remain in custody.
“The court is therefore not going to sanction the accused’s loss of liberty.”
The pair have been placed under house arrest and may only leave their homes for medical, business, and legal appointments.
Smit was shot dead in what is said to be an assassination made to look like a hit executed by land grabbers.
His wife, Sait, who was member of the security team tasked with investigating attacks on the vintner’s farms, and a bodyguard were arrested for his murder a year-and-a-half after he was shot.
Zurenah, Smit, and a friend had been having dinner on the night of the supposed robbery, when armed suspects entered Louiesenhof through an unlocked door.
Only Smit was shot; his assailants had escaped with only two cellphones and a handbag.
Sait, Steven Damon – who elected not to apply for bail – and Sait’s brother, Bradley van Eyslend, the head of security, had all been on duty that night.
None had supposedly heard the gunshots despite being in an adjacent room and there was no footage of the alleged perpetrators entering the farm, despite a number of CCTV cameras among the extensive security measures in place.
The security team was employed by the couple after the occupation in 2018 of Watergang, which Smit’s family owned via a trust.