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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

‘Traumatised’ VIP Protection Unit accused denies assault in surprise court twist

Despite damning footage, one of the eight VIP Protection Unit members denied in court that the brutal N1 highway assault took place.

The bail hearing of the eight South African Police Service (Saps) VIP Protection Unit members accused of the vicious assault of three civilians on the N1 highway, near Fourways, got off to a dramatic start at the Randburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

The start of the trial was delayed on Monday morning after the accused’s defence requested that the media should be blocked from recording the court proceedings.

VIP Protection Unit assault accused allowed face masks

One of their legal representatives cited security concerns as motivation for the protection of the eight men’s identities as “they may reveal things of national interest” during the trial.

Magistrate Hlengiwe Mkhabisi dismissed the request, saying that it was in the public interest to allow media coverage of the case.

In a surprise twist, she gave the VIP Protection Unit members – who formed part of Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s security detail – permission to don face masks in court.

Court appearance follows arrest

The state indicated from the start that it would oppose bail for the eight officials who handed themselves over at the Sandton Police Station on Sunday afternoon. The first court appearance followed less than 24 hours after their arrest.

The eight accused – Johannes Mampuru, Joseph Mofokeng, Harmans Ramokhonami, Phineas Boshielo, Churchill Mkhize, Aggrie Rambau and Moses Tshidada – are facing charges of pointing a firearm, assault and malicious damage to property. 

ALSO READ: Eight VIP Protection Unit officers to be charged for highway assault

Blue light assault: Paul Mashatile’s VIP Protection Unit suspended with full pay

The VIP Protection Unit members were suspended with full pay after shock video footage of the brutal highway assault on 3 July, emerged on social media, prompting an investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) and the South African Police Service (Saps).

In the video, the heavily armed officers can be seen dragging three males from a blue VW Polo after smashing the vehicle’s back windscreen with a firearm. The accused then take turns to violently kick the unarmed victims, as well as stomping the driver on his head, rendering him unconscious.

ALSO READ:  ‘I am not okay’: Victim’s horror account of VIP blue light assault

Accused denies assault, makes mention of ‘main car’

paul mashatile VIP protection unit N1 assault Fourways
Members of Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s VIP Protection Unit are seen assaulting three men on the N1 highway. near Fourways, in Johannesburg, on 3 July. Photos: Gulshan Khan/ AFP and Twitter video screengrab

Kojoana, the first accused to take the stand, told the court the incident occurred after the victims’ car was driving too close to the “main car” at a high speed. This seemingly implies Mashatile was in the vicinity when the assault took place.  

“As it was approaching the main car. The motor vehicle that I was in is supposed to protect number two of the country. Then we shielded the Polo getting to the main car and tried to push it away back to the third lane. But, instead of going it [the Polo] started slowing down.” 

Kojoana testified that the deputy president had left the scene, and when they arrived at his Midrand home 40 minutes later, they reported the incident to their commander. 

ALSO READ: R37m ‘safe house’? Paul Mashatile lives in Waterfall mansion owned by son-in-law

He said the video footage, captured by a civilian, did not show the events leading up to the altercation, adding that it was their duty as police officers to “contain” the situation. 

The accused admitted to forcing one of the male occupants out of the car and ordering him to “lie down”, before restraining him with his foot.

Despite the damning footage, Kojoana denied that there was an assault. 

He claimed that he only got to see the video four days after the incident, and that it had “traumatised” him. 

The group remained in police custody after the case was postponed to Wednesday for further hearing. 

NOW READ: VIP assault ‘blood money’: Victim plans to sue Bheki Cele, Saps for R1m

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