Johannesburg – Two men accused of killing Mozambican national Emmanuel Josias Sithole were denied bail in the Alexandra Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
The pair’s appearance in court happened exactly a month since Sithole was stabbed on the streets of Alexandra in a wave of xenophobic violence.
The street vendor had allegedly been attacked for demanding payment from a group of young men who had taken cigarettes from his stall without paying.
The attack on Sithole was documented by a photographer from the Sunday Times.
The pictures aided police investigations in making the speedy arrest of the four men alleged to have carried out the attack.
Only three of the four accused appeared before the court on Monday.
Absent in court was the fourth accused who is a minor and has been taken to a place of safety.
Direction on how he would be tried would be heard when a preliminary investigation was concluded and the matter returned to court later in May.
Mthinta Bhengu and the fourth accused had previously indicated that they wanted to enter into a plea bargain.
Sizwe Mngomezulu, and Sifundi Mzimela said they intended to plead not guilty to the murder charge against them and agreed to a charge of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
They had gone ahead with their bail application, stating they would not interrupt the police investigations, make contact with the state witness or leave Alexandra.
Magistrate Syta Prinsloo on Monday ruled that it would not be in the interest of justice to release them.
Prinsloo said the investigating officer in the matter had testified that the accused knew the identity of the only State witness in the matter.
She also noted the community’s calls for the men to be kept behind bars.
Delivering her ruling, Prinsloo said the protests seem to have calmed down but the situation was still volatile.
She added that the release of the accused would interrupt the peace.
“The violence on Sithole was not an isolated one because at the time, there were various attacks on foreign nationals,” said Prinsloo, adding that there was a huge public outcry for the violence to be halted.
After being denied bail, the three men, dressed in the same red, blue and grey sweaters they had worn to previous court proceedings, were led out of court and down into the holding cells.
One of them smiled at his family in the court gallery and signalled that he wanted cigarettes.
The families of the three youths made their way out of court to a passage where they could see the accused being led out of the court cells into the court’s yards.
They waved at the men.
A court official hurried them along, saying there was nothing for them to see.
“So we are not allowed to communicate with them inside court and also outside of court,” an agitated relative said.
The group returns to court on May 27.