South Africa: After a brief court appearance in Pretoria on Monday, 02 November 2020, the bail application of the leader of the Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG), his wife Mary and 3 other accused, was postponed once again to Wednesday 04 November 2020 for judgement on the bail application.
During the bail application. the State argued that the accused are likely to evade standing trial should they be released on bail as they are facing serious charges involving amounts totaling over R100 million. The immovable property allegedly owned by the accused is not sufficient to bind them to remain in South Africa as these properties are burdened with debt and shall not be sufficient incentive for the accused to stand their trial. In respect of the 4th and 5th accused, the Sparkling Waters Hotel & Spa in Rustenburg has been used as security for debt amounting to over R200 million.
The accused do not have any strong family ties in the Republic and have since secretly removed some of their movable assets out of the Republic. The accused are self declared millionaires and any amount of bail that the court may determine shall not be sufficient hindrance for them to stand trial as they can easily afford to forfeit it. Although the accused have since handed in their travel documents to the investigating officers, that fact alone will not be adequate deterrence for them to escape bail as the accused can easily obtain other travel documents with the network of supporters available to them. The accused do not need to cross the country in order to evade trial. They may simply disappear within the borders of the Republic in order to frustrate the commencement or finalisation of their trial. It is not enough for the accused to merely say that they have a defence against the charges leveled against them. They must actually state what their defence is.
The State further argued that the accused are likely to interfere with or unduly influence state witnesses in the matter especially because the identity of the complainants can easily be established by the accused as they provided their names, addresses and identity numbers when the investments were made.
The Court wanted to know why the State did not oppose bail in February 2019 when accused 4 & 5 appeared in the other matter as the information available to the State then is the same as it is now. The State said that at the time of the previous bail application in February 2019, the State was labouring under the impression that the accused were in possession of valid travel documents or residence permits. It has since appeared that the Department of Home Affairs is challenging the validity of accused 4 & 5’s residence permits. The charges that the accused faced then were less serious than the present charges regarding being had to the amounts involved.
On behalf of accused 2, it was argued that she has a 9 month old baby who is still on breast milk and needs its mother for survival. That the court should consider alternatives to confinement in the interests of the children. The state’s argument is that accused 2 is being denied bail on the grounds that she is married to accused 1, who was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport while attempting to board an outbound plane.
On behalf of accused 4 & 5, counsel argued that even though additional serious charges were added to their previous case which is due for trial in May 2021, this did not induce them to flee. They continued to attend court whenever they were required to do so. All the accused would have handed themselves over to the police, had the police not ignored the arrangements that were made between them and the accused’s legal representatives. At this stage of the proceedings, the accused have a right to remain silent with regards to the merits of the case, especially so because the state has failed to provide sufficient particulars with regards to the charges that the accused are facing. The accused have shown that they are reliable in attending court as they have done in the past. The state has tried to mislead the court by alleging that one of the accused has failed to hand in one of their passports while the state should have been aware that that passport has already expired. That accused 1 & 2 are owners of immovable property in South Africa should be considered in their favour. That with regards to the alleged debt concerning the Sparkling Waters Hotel & Spa in Rustenburg, that there is currently an application for rescission of judgment. Accused 4 & 5 have a huge congregation in South Africa and not likely to abandon them merely to abscond trial.
The case was postponed to Wednesday , 04 November 2020 at 10 am for the Court to deliver judgment in respect of the bail application by accused 2, 4,5 & 6. Accused 1 has not brought any formal bail application. All accused to remain in custody until then.