Bittereinder man’s bail application continues

Henry

Francois van der Merwe (25), a director of the Bittereinders movement, will possibly “pose a danger to the public and be guilty of more offenses if he is released on bail”.

Van der Merwe is in custody after he was arrested during a demonstration in front of the Groblersdal Magistrate’s Court in Limpopo.

According to the state, Van der Merwe would have encouraged more than 100 people to oppose the police that day. In doing so, Van der Merwe allegedly caused public unrest and forced the entire town to a standstill. He is also accused of assaulting a police colonel.

His bail application resumed in the same court on Thursday.

Sgt. Japie Skasana, investigating officer, testified for the state and said the chances are high for Van der Merwe to commit crimes again if he were to be released.

He also informed the court that further arrests may follow.

“(Van der Merwe) knows who these suspects are who have yet to be arrested. Some of them may not live here,” Skasana testified.

During a previous court appearance, Van der Merwe said in an affidavit that the police interfered with his rights to attend a court case and tried to prevent him from “protesting in a peaceful manner and with permission”.

Apart from Van der Merwe’s father, Hennie, and a few other persons, there was no other support for Van der Merwe. Devon Hofmeyr, Van der Merwe’s co-director, did not attend the court proceedings as in previous times.

Van der Merwe, after receiving hugs from his father and supporters, sat down in the dock. At times he held his hands, as if praying, in front of him on his lap.

Louis Liebenberg, the notorious diamond peddler, was also present in court.

Van der Merwe was initially charged with assault and is facing an additional charge related to the fact that he allegedly prevented a police officer from carrying out his duties. The additional charges were later dropped and replaced with a charge of public violence and failure to comply with the provisions of the regulation of gatherings.

According to Skasana, Van der Merwe was the main organizer of the demonstration and Andries Olivier the deputy organizer.

He further testified that there are at least six statements, from police officers, which form part of the investigation and paint a picture of what led to Van der Merwe’s arrest.

The march was held by the Bittereinders movement to show their support for the granting of bail to Piet Groenewald (63) and Stephan Greeff (27). They are accused of assaulting Veneruru Kavari (30), an employee, and unleashing a dog on him.

During this demonstration, the Transvaal Vierkleur of the then Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek was carried through the streets.

Van der Merwe and the protesters were not allowed to walk past the court in the street.

According to Skasana, they had received prior permission from the municipality for their intended route, but that this did not include access to the court.

Van der Merwe passed the barrier at one stage and was pulled over, arrested and charged later that day.

According to Skasana, the police decided to deny the protesters entry. “The police told them that it was no longer safe to walk past the court. And when a police officer gives a member of the public an order, it must be carried out,” Skasana testified.

He further testified that the police received information about the protesters’ malicious intentions before the demonstration.

According to a police statement, which Skasana read out in court, the Bittereinders’ mission was “to occupy the town by force as the EFF did the week before.”

Adv. Wayne Gibbs, Van der Merwe’s legal representative, told Skasana that he decided to oppose bail “for political reasons”.

“There is political interference in this case,” Gibbs told the court.

Skasana denied the statement and said the state and police as a whole had decided together to refuse bail. “Initially the decision was not to refuse bail, but as the investigation progressed and new information emerged, the decision was revised.”

The case, which started late due to load shedding at the court, was adjourned late in the afternoon and Van der Merwe remains in custody until his next appearance later this month.