Malema back in court, as police say they followed protocol at Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral

Lieutenant-Colonel James Bronkhorst maintains that protocol was followed when Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema and his delegation’s vehicle was refused entry to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s official funeral in 2018. But defence advocate Laurence Hodes questioned the police’s conduct on the day of the incident — and what followed. 

The assault trial against Malema and EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi resumed in the Randburg magistrate’s court on Tuesday, after last being heard in October. 

The duo allegedly assaulted Lieutenant-Colonel Johannes Jacobus Venter at the Fourways Memorial Cemetery, allegedly pushing him after he tried to deny them access to the cemetery. Venter said that their vehicle was not accredited to enter — although its occupants were — at which point Malema refused to exit the vehicle and walk into the cemetery. 

The trial heard from two state witnesses: Deon Klingbiel, the manager of the Fourways Memorial Cemetery, and Bronkhorst, from the police’s protection and security division. 

In his cross-examination by Hodes, Klingbiel, who has worked at the cemetery for 13 years, was questioned about the footage recorded by closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras on the day of the incident.

During the court hearing, it emerged that Klingbiel was asked to look at the CCTV footage shortly after the incident occurred. He then made a copy of the footage and gave it to Bronkhorst on the same day. 

Klingbiel kept copies of the incident footage in his personal possession. Hodes argued that Klingbiel failed to mention this in his statement. Klingbiel replied that he had copies, so “if one copy should get lost, it is not lost forever”. 

He added that he did not leak the video to the media, but kept it to himself until being asked for it by the state prosecutor. 

The state’s second witness, Bronkhorst, who has served in the South African Police Force for 34 years, testified that he had received the first copy of the CCTV footage that captured the incident at the cemetery. 

What the protocol dictates

Both the state and the defence focused on the protocol that must be followed during an official funeral. 

Bronkhorst explained that an internal police investigation into the matter was launched and that “the information we got on the day of the incident, the video material we got from Klingbiel, and my years of experience in events planning, brought me to the conclusion that Venter acted 100% correctly”.

After confirming it was indeed an official funeral and not a state funeral, as he had described it in his statement, Bronkhurst went on to explain how an event of such a nature is co-ordinated by the police. 

Bronkhorst told the court that when heads of state or VIPs are hosted, it is the police’s responsibility to make sure the venue is protected. He added that many resources are spent to make sure an event is safe, particularly when people are moving from one location to another. 

In this case, Madikizela-Mandela’s family, the president, and other officials were to be escorted between two areas. Then a convoy, together with the vehicles that have gone through police clearance, moves from one area to another. Bronkhorst explained that should a vehicle leave the convoy, it must undergo another round of police clearance before entering the next protected location. 

Hodes asked Bronkhorst whether Malema’s vehicle had been screened, because his name was on Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral brochure, to which Bronkhorst replied that he did not know. Bronkhorst accepted responsibility for not being able to confirm whether Malema’s vehicle received police clearance, but he added that the protection and security personnel were not given any time to confirm such clearance on the day of the incident. 

The case will resume on Wednesday 10 March for Bronkhorst’s re-examination; a third witness is also expected to testify.

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