South Africa

‘I can’t tell whether it’s a real gun’ – Malema pushes for charges to be dropped

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema and his bodyguard, Adriaan Snyman are seeking to have the charges levelled against them in their firearm discharge case dropped due to a lack of evidence.

Malema and Snyman are on trial in the East London Magistrate’s Court.

The EFF leader is facing five charges, including the unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, discharging a firearm in a built-up area or public space and reckless endangerment to person or property, while Snyman faces two charges under the Firearms Control Act.

Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The charges stem from a 2018 incident in which Malema was captured on camera firing what appeared to be an automatic assault rifle during the EFF’s fifth birthday celebrations at the Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane.

Section 174 application

During court proceedings on Thursday, Malema’s lawyer, Advocate Laurance Hodes told the court he had been instructed to apply for Malema’s discharge via a Section 174 application.

“To do so, I will need to review my notes and exhibits, and I respectfully request a remand until our next date, which is Wednesday,” Hodes said.

Advocate Shane Matthews, representing Snyman, said he had similar instructions.

Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act states “the right of an accused to be discharged from the offence he has allegedly committed where, at the close of the state’s case, there is no evidence on which the court may draw the accused to the charge”.

WATCH: ‘If it means prison then let it be’ – Malema blasts magistrate’s ‘ill-discipline’

 Magistrate Twanet Olivier postponed the matter to 20 September, but warned that she won’t deliver a ruling immediately after both the state and defence present their cases.

“Obviously, the state will only hear your arguments on that Wednesday … They may require time to prepare and respond on Thursday. I cannot guarantee that I am going to give a ruling or judgment thereafter.

“I will also have to read all the documents that have been placed before me this week… I will have to read them as well. I will do my best to do so over the weekend, but I also have a full packed court roll on Monday and Tuesday so we’ll see what happens,” Olivier said.

Watch the trial below:

Source of video not unidentified

The state wrapped up its case with investigating officer Rodney Swartbooi as its last witness.

Swartbooi testified there was no witness who complained about any risk or danger when the alleged firing incident took place.

“Nobody came forward your worship,” he said during his cross-examination.

The investigating officer also told the court that Malema’s five VIP protectors, two of whom were from the Eastern Cape, said they did not see or hear anyone firing shots in their statements after he interviewed them.

Hodes said: “It, thus, seems that the only basis of the complaint is the viral video footage is that correct?”

To which Swartbooi replied: “The viral footage that was circulated and the cartridge casing that was linked with the firearm that presented for ballistic testing.”

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A ballistics expert previously testified a bullet cartridge found at the Sisa Dukashe Stadium came from one of the firearms seized from Snyman’s company.

However, Swartbooi also conceded the police were unable to trace the original source of the viral video showing Malema firing a rifle.

“Are you aware that video footage can be manipulated do you agree with me? [For example] on TikTok, you can put your voice on someone else’s … it happens with memes and all different things on phones these days,” Hodes asked.

“Your worship, I’m not familiar with those types of [things],” Swartbooi responded.

He also told the court he could not factually state the gun fired was a real one or not.

“I cannot indicate whether it’s a real firearm or not,” Swartbooi said.