Groblersdal case: Tempers run high as father, stepson asks for bail

Henry

Tempers ran high at times in Groblersdal, Limpopo, where the bail application of the father and stepson accused of assaulting a worker was heard.

In the early morning, the police had to fire thunderbolts to disperse the protesters.

Supporters of the Bittereinders movement, residents of Groblersdal as well as members of the ANC and EFF gathered outside the court. The Bittereinders demanded that Piet Groenewald (63), owner of Wildlife Investigation & Protection Services (WIPS), and Stephan Greeff (27) be released. In contrast, the political parties demanded that bail be denied.

Groenewald and Greeff are accused of assaulting a worker and then unleashing a dog on him.

The police have both groups protesting on opposite sides of the street in front of the court. Strict access control to the court was applied.

Francois van der Merwe, member of the Bittereinders, was arrested before the court proceedings could begin. Police officers did not want to allow him and other supporters past the cones placed in the road in front of the court. According to Van der Merwe, permission had been obtained beforehand for the demonstration.

An exchange of words arose between them with Van der Merwe which happened past the police. He was pulled down by a group of police officers while shouting: “Freedom for the Boerevolk!”.

He was then taken inside the court to the holding cells.

The Bittereinders have confirmed on social media that they will file counter-charges of assault against the policemen who allegedly assaulted Van der Merwe during her arrest.

Maj. Gen. Jan Scheepers, acting police chief in Limpopo, confirmed outside the court that Van der Merwe will be charged with assault.

By late afternoon, Van der Merwe was still in custody. RNews has reliably confirmed his bail application will be heard on Thursday. Lt. Col. Malesela Ledwaba, provincial police spokesperson, could not immediately confirm any counter-charges.

Attempted murder now assault

Groenewald and Greeff appeared in court on their first appearance on charges of assault with intent to seriously injure. After this the charge was changed to attempted murder only to be changed back to assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm before their bail application.

Despite the fact that these charges are a schedule one offence, the state still opposed Groenewald and Greeff’s bail application.

According to the indictment, Groenewald and Greeff allegedly assaulted Veneruru Kavari (30), a security guard in their service, with a pickaxe last Wednesday. After this, Kavari is said to have tried to flee.

“When he (Groenewald) realized he would not catch up with the victim (Kavari), he told his son (Greeff) to put the security dogs on Kavari,” said Faith Raselemane, state prosecutor.

As a result, Kavari sustained two wounds on his right leg and three more on his left leg.

According to Raselemane, Groenewald and Greeff refused Kavari medical help and injected him with an “unknown substance” and let him go, after which Kavari got help from his brother.

Groenewald and Greeff were arrested last Thursday after Kavari filed a case against them with the help of the EFF.

Col. Donald Mdluli, police spokesperson in Mpumalanga, later confirmed to RNews that Groenewald had lodged a counter-complaint of damage to property against Kavari. However, this case was not placed on the court roll.

Court must think of two’s safety

Const. Grigory Maleasenya, investigating officer attached to the Groblersdal police station’s detective branch, testified on behalf of the state that granting bail to Groenewald and Greeff would be “like releasing them into a lion’s den”.

“If they are released, there will be no peace in Groblersdal. The community threatened to kill them… I want the court to consider their safety and not release them,” Maleasenya testified.

He further testified that members of the community arrived at the local police station last Wednesday. “They threatened to kill them (Groenewald and Greeff).”

According to Maleasenya, the community ran amok so much that some of the people fled the office. “We had to call in additional help to help us calm the situation.”

On a question from adv. Casparus van Wyk, Groenewald and Greeff’s legal representative, why Maleasenya did not also arrest these persons, he testified that there was not enough manpower available that day.

RNews later checked the court book and confirmed that four EFF members had indeed been arrested and had already appeared in court on charges of public violence. All four will have to appear in court again on Friday.

Maleasenya also testified that Elmarie Greeff, Groenewald’s partner and Stephan’s mother, apparently received threatening messages. Van Wyk confirmed that they are life partners and that it had previously been wrongly reported by the police that they were married.

One of the messages on Groenewald’s phone read, “you will k*k”.

To this, Van Wyk testified that Elmarie or her son and Groenewald still fear for their lives.

“I put it to you that they will feel safer at their home than where they are now in custody,” Van Wyk said. Van Wyk confirmed that Groenewald’s business was run from his residence and was well guarded.

Maleasenya was also worried that if Groenewald and Stephan were released, they would interfere with the witnesses. According to him, at least one eyewitness still works for Groenewald.

According to Van Wyk, the court can make an order to prohibit Groenewald and Stephan from doing this and also submitting their travel documents.

Before Van Wyk could get around to reading Groenewald’s and Greeff’s affidavits – which will state their version of events – to the court, the case was adjourned due to time running out.

The court also ordered that Groenewald be sent for medical observation after, according to Van Wyk, he had a mild heart attack after his arrest.

The bail application continues next Wednesday.