Eight Wits students arrested during protest released on warning

The eight students that were arrested during protests on Monday  at Wits University were released today on warnings at Hillbrow Magistrates Court and will be required to reappear in court next month.

The charges brought against them include public violence, contravention of a court order, malicious damage to property, assault and possession of a dangerous weapon.

Fellow students and families sat behind the dock awaiting for student protesters Zimbali Ncube, Marola Mathabatha, Siyabonga Bongani Mathebula, Edwin Mokhali, Jonathan Paoli, Sabelo Melane and Thabiso Nhlapo to be called upon.

The courtroom responded in shock and tears were shed by loved ones as the  young men were handcuffed on entrance.

Court proceedings started out with the state opposing bail for the eight young men as some of their residential addresses were not verified.

But the students’ lawyers, Advocates Sizo Dlali and Andries Nkome argued successfully that since some addresses could not be immediately verified then their proof of registration would suffice as evidence that they were not flight risks.

Accused number two, Zimbali Ncube, would have spent another night in custody as the verification of his address was not as successful as the others. Magistrate Herman Visser was adamant that he did not want any student to stay in custody unnecessarily.

The state then proposed that each student be released on R1000 bail but this was argued against by Nkome.

“I don’t want to start sounding like a broken record your Honour but these students cannot afford bail,” argued Nkome. The students are still dependant on guardians and parents he said.

The magistrate then released them on a warning. As the eight walked out cheers could be heard outside and fellow students welcomed them in song.

However, The Wits 8 are to return to court on November 2 as the police are said to still be investigating their cases.


‘Cocaine conman’ back on the streets

LESS than a week after being arrested by police, the suspected “cocaine conman” is back on the streets.

The man, whose name may not be used since he has not been officially charged, appeared in the Hillbrow Magistrate’s Court on Monday and was released pending further investigation.

Last Friday, the man was arrested after a Witsie pretended to be taken in by his alleged con. Before he could make a getaway, undercover Campus Control officers moved in and nabbed him. [pullquote align=”right”]the man offered R5 000 in return for allowing him to use his cellphone to call the person he was selling the “cocaine” to.[/pullquote]

The man was handed over to Hillbrow police and spent the weekend behind bars.

No case?

Investigating officer in charge of the case, Constable Nyiko Mbiza, said the case was taken off the court roll for further investigation. “We have his passport in our possession and we know where to find him.”

The arrest and subsequent release of the alleged conman was confirmed by Hillbrow police spokesperson Mbuso Zondo.

Zondo said police needed to conduct further investigations before the man could be rearrested.

“The case was thrown out for further investigation. He was charged on one account [of theft]. It does not mean that it cannot go back to court. We are waiting on the forensic report [of the white substance] which will take a week or two.”

The ‘cocaine conman’ has wreaked havoc on campus for over a year, using a cocaine-like substance to con Witsies out of their cellphones.

The con

Wits Vuvuzela reported previously about how the ‘cocaine conman’ operated. The man would ask unsuspecting students to use their cellphones.

He would then tell the students he was a drug dealer and needed to borrow their cellphones for a drug transaction. The cocaine conman would then offer a bag of ‘cocaine’ as security.

[pullquote]The white powder would turn out not to be cocaine but ordinary flour[/pullquote].

The man suspected of being the fraudster was caught last Friday after allegedly targeting a law student. The student had read about the conman in the Wits Vuvuzela.

Witsie strikes back

Solaneh Sibande said he had a “James Bond moment” after recognising the man’s physical description and modus operandi from articles published in this paper.

He said the man offered R5 000 in return for allowing him to use his cellphone to call the person he was selling the “cocaine” to.

“I wanted to make the guy think that he was killing it, so I told him I was from the rural areas and that I herded cows. He was testing my knowledge of Joburg.” Sibande actually hails from Benmore.

All the while Sibande was trying to signal passing students to call Campus Control, unaware that officers in plain clothes were watching and closing in.

Campus Control security and liaison manager Lucky Khumela told the Wits Vuvuzela that University of Johannesburg officials had reported a man fitting the conman’s description operating on their campuses.