By Thina Bhengu
Three of the five men accused of assaulting a black couple — Jacob and Dudu Sono — at a KFC drive-through were denied bail in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.
Magistrate Motlhoki Rapulana remanded Stephen Nel, 39, Joshua Scholtz, 21, and 21-year-old Dicky Junior van Rooyen, citing the seriousness of the charges they faced and the public outcry that followed the much-publicised attack at a KFC drive-through in Pretoria north earlier this month.
“There is a likelihood that, if released on bail, the applicants will interfere with ongoing police investigations. It’s a likelihood that they will tamper with the investigation and the evidence,” Rapulana said delivering her judgment on the trio’s bail application in a packed courtroom.
“It is a possibility that releasing the applicants on bail will cause a public outcry. The public will not have confidence in the justice system if the applicants are to be released on bail. I therefore have found that it is not in the interest of justice to release the applicants on bail.”
The matter will return to court on 14 September.
Nel, Scholtz and Van Rooyen are charged, together with 23-year-old Marius Harding and 20-year-old Ockert Muller.
Harding previously abandoned his bail application. He remains in police custody and was not in court on Wednesday.
Muller was previously granted R5,000 bail. His bail conditions were extended.
The five are charged with attempted murder, assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm, and pointing a firearm.
Two police officers acting as state witnesses previously testified that the five had acted in common purpose and that the attack was racially motivated.
The attack was captured as a cellphone video and the clip went viral on social media.
The public outcry led to the arrest of the five men.
A small group of ANC Women’s League members celebrated outside the court soon after the proceedings ended before 6pm, singing and dancing.
Reacting to the court ruling, National Prosecuting Authority’s spokesperson Luv yo Mfaku said cases with racial undertones were closely monitored.
“We believe that this decision [denial of bail] is in the interests of justice, in terms of ensuring that all the matters that are allegedly racially motivated are actually addressed by the state to ensure that they do not derail our social cohesion,” said Mfaku.
The ruling was not a punishment of the accused men but would send a strong message to “would-be attackers whether on racial or any other grounds”, he said.