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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Blue light assault: Masked VIP Protection Unit members formally charged in court [WATCH]

The eight VIP Protection Unit members linked to the N1 highway assault all covered their faces during their first court appearance.

The eight South African Police Service (Saps) VIP Protection Unit members who were caught on video assaulting three civilians on the N1 highway, made their first court appearance at the Randburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

The men handed themselves over at the Sandton Police Station on Sunday afternoon, spending less than 24 hours behind bars before appearing in court for the bail hearing.

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

Accused allowed masks in court

The VIP Protection Unit members – who form part of Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s security detail –  were permitted to wear face masks in court to protect their identity.

Their masked appearance followed a failed attempt by the accused’s defence to block the media from recording court proceedings during which the state opposed bail for the accused.

One of their legal representatives raised security concerns as a reason for the protection of the eight men’s identity as “they may reveal things of national interest”.

Magistrate Hlengiwe Mkhabisi said while she understood the concerns raised by the defence, it was in the public interest to allow media coverage of the case.

Action Society reacts to face masks

Non-profit organisation Action Society’s director of community safety, Ian Cameron, expressed his displeasure with the court allowing the accused to wear masks.

Cameron remarked that one of the eight men covered up his face “like he is being detained in the North Pole”.

Charges against VIP Protection Unit members

The eight face a string of charges for the brutal highway assault which sparked a massive outcry after a video of the 3 July incident went viral.

The VIP Protection Unit members were formally charged on the following 12 counts:

  • Four counts of pointing a firearm;
  • Two counts of malicious damage to property;
  • One count of reckless and negligent driving;
  • Three counts of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm;
  • One count of an attempt to defeat the administration of justice; and
  • Assault by way of threats.

The court was told that the damage to the VW Polo that the victims were travelling in at the time of the assault, amounted to R95 000.

WATCH: N1 highway assault accused appear in court

Brutal assault captured on video

The VIP Protection Unit members were suspended with full pay after damning footage of the assault emerged on social media, prompting an investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) and the Saps.

In the video, the heavily armed officers can be seen dragging three males from a blue VW Polo before taking turns to violently kick the unarmed victims while they were lying on the road.

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

Where was Mashatile?

It’s still not clear what led to the assault, and it is also unclear whether Mashatile was in one of the vehicles when the incident took place.

Mashatile’s office did release a statement shortly after the incident claiming he was not in any of the VIP convoy’s vehicles at the time of the incident.

Ipid spokesperson Robbie Raburabu, however, told the media on Sunday that the police watchdog is still investigating the details surrounding the assault.

The SA National Defence Union (Sandu) has since confirmed that the three victims were South African Defence Force (SANDF) members undergoing military police training.

NOW READ: Paul Mashatile’s office confirms his VIP officers were involved in shocking assault video

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