Chief Justice burglary: Lawyer questions why suspects were arrested

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The men – Given Msimango, 20, Bigboy Jose, 37, and Joshua Msimango – appeared in the Mamelodi Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

The state refused to prosecute Joshua Msimango because of a lack of evidence. Given Msimango and Jose were remanded in custody until Thursday next week.

Given Msimango has been charged with possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, while Jose has been charged with possession of fraudulent identity documents, which allegedly bear his photograph.

Their lawyer, Sammy Mahlangu, said he could not understand how the accused were linked to the burglary. None of the charges point to their involvement in the burglary in which 15 computers were stolen from the office of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng at the weekend.

“These guys have nothing to do with the break-in. You can see the charge sheet; there’s nothing about computers,” Mahlangu said.

However, their DNA might be the reason they were associated with the crime. Police said yesterday they were searching for one Nkosinathi Msimango, confirmed by Mahlangu as Given and Joshua Msimango’s brother.

Yesterday, acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane told media: “Three men were arrested linked to the break-in at the offices of the Chief Justice to enable further investigation into the matter [sic]”.

Phahlane called on Nkosinathi Msimango to come forward after the arrested trio revealed that he had “critical information required to solve the crime and aid recovery of the stolen IT equipment”.

Mahlangu said the accused lived in the same house in Mamelodi and police had gone to the house following information that there were computers there.

“They searched the house but there were no computers. They found the identity documents and one firearm. The other firearm was found somewhere else.”

He said he would take the matter up with the police.

Even the investigating officer was baffled by the media spotlight on the accused.

“I am confused why there are so many journalists.”

Gareth Newham, of the Institute for Security Studies, said in such high-profile cases there was huge public and political pressure for results.

“There is national outrage and speculation about possible ulterior motives, especially given the recent judgment against the government.

“When the police are under such intense pressure they can act too hastily, as happened in the Senzo Meyiwa case.”

Sean Tait of the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum said the police “often arrest first and then investigate”.

“This is what it looks like in this case. It’s the only logical reason for the inconsistency in the announcement of the major breakthrough and the fact that the accused are not charged with the burglary.”

He said with the number of civil claims against the police, many for arbitrary arrests, it was clear that police making premature arrests is a problem.

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