In a recent development at the East London Magistrate’s Court, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and his bodyguard, Adriaan Snyman, have applied to have the charges against them dropped in the ongoing firearm discharge case, citing insufficient evidence to proceed with the trial.
The Charges Against Malema
The charges against Malema include the unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, discharging a firearm in a built-up area or public place, and reckless endangerment to person or property, among others. Snyman is facing two charges under the Firearms Control Act. Both individuals have pleaded not guilty to all the charges leveled against them.
These charges have their origin in a 2018 incident where Malema was filmed allegedly firing an automatic assault rifle during the EFF’s fifth birthday celebrations at the Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane.
During the court session held last Thursday, Advocate Laurance Hodes, representing Malema, informed the court of his intention to apply for Malema’s discharge through a Section 174 application. He requested a remand to prepare for the next hearing scheduled for Wednesday. Advocate Shane Matthews, representing Snyman, echoed similar sentiments.
Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act allows for the discharge of an accused individual at the close of the state’s case if there is no evidence that could potentially lead the court to draw the accused to the charge.
Magistrate Twanet Olivier has postponed the hearing to 20 September, noting that a ruling will not be immediately delivered after the presentations from both the state and the defence teams. She emphasized the necessity to thoroughly review all the documents submitted during this week before reaching a decision.
The State’s Case
The state concluded its argument with the testimony of investigating officer Rodney Swartbooi, who was the last to take the witness stand. Swartbooi mentioned that there were no witnesses who came forward to report any risk or danger at the time of the alleged firearm discharge.
During cross-examination, Swartbooi confirmed that the primary basis of the complaint was the viral video footage and a cartridge casing linked to a firearm from Snyman’s company found at the stadium. However, he acknowledged the inability to trace the original source of the viral video and could not confirm the authenticity of the footage or verify if the gun fired was real.
“I cannot indicate whether it’s a real firearm or not,” Swartbooi said.
Furthermore, Swartbooi revealed that none of Malema’s five VIP protectors, including two from the Eastern Cape, witnessed the firing of shots, according to their statements post the interview.
Questions Raised About the Evidence
Hodes raised concerns about the reliability of the video footage, highlighting the potential for manipulation in the digital age. He questioned Swartbooi’s awareness of the ease with which video content can be altered, to which Swartbooi admitted his unfamiliarity with such manipulations.
As the case progresses, it brings to the fore questions about the authenticity of digital evidence and the standards required for such evidence to be deemed admissible in court. The coming sessions are anticipated to shed more light on the intricacies of the case, as both parties prepare to present their arguments in the next hearing.