Nomzamo tavern massacre case postponed after petrol bomb threats

Bail hearing for one of the suspects in the Soweto tavern massacre had to be moved to another court.

The bail judgment for one of the six men accused of the Nomzamo tavern massacre had to be postponed yet again on Thursday, this time for security reasons. 

Petrol bombing threats

This is after the court heard how those who were gathered outside the Orlando Magistrate’s Court wanted to petrol bomb the building and the nearby police station.

The matter had to be delayed for more than two hours before heavily armed police could be brought into the court room to protect the accused. The accused also had to be whisked out of court after proceedings in a police Nyala. 

The case was initially set down on Wednesday for the bail judgment, however, the state said it intended to reopen its case as it wanted supplementary statements to be read into the record in a bid to oppose bail for accused number three.

Bail application

State prosecutor Inge Vogelpath said there were threats to attack the court and the police station if the bail matter was dealt with on Thursday. 

“A risk assessment was done. It is not safe to proceed with bail today. It is not safe to proceed with bail in this court building. Arrangements were made that the matter be moved to Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday,” Vogelpath said. 

Accused number three’s lawyer, JP Venter, said they wanted the trial to be heard in a different court after being told of the threats to petrol bomb the building. 

“I understand the concerns from the police who are protecting us that they won’t be able to protect us if this building were to be set on fire. We heard threats that they want to petrol bomb the building. I have no objection if we move the matter to a different court,” he said.

ALSO READ: Nomzamo tavern massacre: ‘Murders caused by rival burial societies’

Magistrate AW Morton said the case was an emotional matter and therefore emotions were expected to run high. To avoid another massacre, he said the matter would not continue.

“The court can’t take the risk, I concur with the state and the defence to move this case to another venue,” Morton said. 

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said they were asked by community members to meet. They demanded to meet with Police Minister Bheki Cele, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola and Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi before the court could deliver its judgement on the bail. 

Mjonondwane said the community’s threat to burn the court was concerning.

“It became clear to all of us that a security assessment should be conducted and that was done. The risk assessment informed the court that the matter cannot proceed,” she said.

“The matter has been moved to a bigger court with more than one point of entry and exits. Currently where we are, we are sitting with a court with only one exit which adds to the challenges of safety and security of everyone.”

ALSO READ: Tavern shootings: Over 130 cartridges found at Soweto scene as Cele dismisses ‘terrorism’ claims

She denied claims that the NPA was bullied by the Nomzamo community into making sure the case does not proceed.

“When information is brought to our attention, we have to act on such information, more so if the information involves the safety and security of citizens,” she said.

“The criminal justice system can not be held ransom, work must continue, whether or not the outcomes of our courts satisfy individuals or not. They will be informed by what the law dictates.”

Watch: At least 130 AK47 bullets fired at Soweto tavern

This video is no longer available.

Nomzamo tavern massacre

The six men are facing 19 murder charges and one charge of robbery with aggravating circumstances. The three other murders were committed before the Nomzamo massacre.

Thembalakhe Jaxa, a community leaders who was among those gathered outside the court, said they were disappointed the matter was moved to another court before the Orlando Magistrate’s Court could deliver its judgment on bail for accused three.

“Let them finish the entire case here and no one will burn anything. If they do something wrong, then this court will burn. I have urged the community to calm down and we want to ask for the case to be concluded here,” Jaxa said.

“We will not harm anyone, we will also not fight their families [accused families]. We are not fighting with any officials, the only people we want to deal with are the people who have been arrested now. What hurts is these people are not even from South Africa.”

Read more on these topics

bail Soweto tavern threats

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits