Forty-six-year-old Mulatu Biru, who is facing charges of attempted murder for allegedly shooting local businessman Johnny Bowes was granted R3 000 bail in the Queenstown magistrate’s court last week Wednesday.
His court appearance follows an incident reported by The Rep (‘Local business owner shot,’ September 17) that, according to a police report, Biru who was renting adjacent premises from Bowes in Cathcart Road allegedly produced a 9mm pistol and shot Bowes in his double cab bakkie outside his Superbrake business premises. Biru was apprehended at the scene and charged.
During his bail application, indicating that he intends to plead not guilty, the state opposed his release based on the investigating officer’s (IO) testimony that he was a flight risk, he would evade trial and that he would interfere with witnesses. The investigating officer also testified that Biru would conceal evidence once out on bail as it was put before court that he had removed and hidden a cartridge at the time of the incident.
“It is on record that even after allegedly shooting the complainant, considering that he was injured and there was blood in the car, he followed him and still threatened him in his office. That shows how violent the accused is or was, the resentment he has against the complainant, because he even forced him to sign whatever paper the accused had in his possession when he saw he could not sign but was assisted by his employee,” said state prosecutor Pamela Piliso.
Defence attorney Luzuko Mazaleni of L. Mazaleni Attorneys Inc argued that the IO did not have any factual basis for suggesting that his client would interfere with witnesses but mere speculation. “She admitted that the witnesses had already deposed to statements of which the docket was in her control. It was impossible he would interfere with the evidence as it was already in her possession. The cartridge that was claimed to be picked up by my client was never found in his possession, but the IO testified that he picked it up on the premises and never left.”
The court found that the accused had family ties and assets in Komani, suggesting that he would not be a flight risk.
“It is indefensible for every magistrate to assume that the fact an accused person is a foreign national or even that he or she is an illegal immigrant does not justify bail. Superior courts have granted bail to foreign nationals before, and their nationality alone cannot be a basis for denying bail. Our Constitution guards against the arbitrary and unjustified deprivation of accused persons’ rights to freedom,” said Mazaleni.
He further argued that: “It is the duty and responsibility of presiding officers to ensure that a thorough risk assessment is performed to prevent a sustained violation of the right to liberty, justice and equality of foreign nationals”
Magistrate Vuyiseka Myoli said she was satisfied that the accused had the balance of probabilities and it was in the interests of justice that he be released on bail, on certain conditions. “He must not communicate with the complainant in the matter, interfere or speak with the witnesses directly or indirectly. Transactions are to be dealt with by the wife and he is prohibited from entering Superbrake. The applicant needs to take his passport from Home Affairs and surrender it to the IO until the matter has been finalised. He must not leave the jurisdiction of Komani without reporting to the IO.”
The case was remanded until October 22 for further investigation.