Charges fall on deaf ears

Morne Steyn pictured after the attack in February.

A Scottsdene teenager says he is still waiting to hear from the police four months after six people armed with a gun, a paintball rifle and pangas, assaulted him and his friends in what appears to have been a racially motivated attack in Northpine.

Morné Steyn, 18, a Northpine Technical High School Grade 12 pupil, says he was walking with three friends in Northpine just after 10pm, on Friday February 12, when five white men and a white woman, attacked them.

Although he laid assault charges, made a sworn statement to the police and submitted a J88 form detailing his injuries, the six alleged attackers have not been taken in for questioning, says Morné.

Northern News was unable confirm with Morné’s friends whether they had also tried to lay charges, but the police say they didn’t, and that they will instead be witnesses.

Morné said the men and the woman who pursued him and his friends had been in two cars.

The friends had climbed the Northpine Technical High School fence to get away, but they had stopped running after the attackers fired two warning shots and held them at gunpoint.

“When they caught us, they ordered us to lie down,” he said, adding that they had been lined up on the floor before being hit “with fists and a paintball gun”.

Morne’s father, Izak Steyn, is a neighbourhood watch member at Gabriel Court in Scottsdene.

He said he had gone with his son and his friends to report the incident at the Kraaifontein police station on the same night.

They had waited at the police station while two police vans were dispatched to arrest “the known suspects”, he said. They had been shocked when the officers returned saying the alleged assailants had refused to be taken into custody “without their lawyers present”.

The police had also argued in front of his son about whether the charge he laid should have been attempted murder or assault, said Mr Steyn.

Appalled and disappointed, the father and son went home to wait for further developments in the case. Four months later they are still waiting.

Morne said he was still confused about the events that night “because we had done nothing”.

Morne said he had not heard from the police since submitting a J88 form and a doctor’s letter – detailing his injuries, including a badly swollen face and knocks on his head – to the police a day after the incident.

“(The police) have not done their job properly. It was clearly a racist attack,” said Mr Steyn. His son branded SAPS as “corrupt”, saying: “They (suspects) were white and rich, hence they got away with it.”

When asked for an update on the case, a Kraaifontein police management source confirmed that a case had indeed been opened and apologised for the manner in which it had been handled. However, other than confirming that the suspects were known, the source refused to answer questions about the status of the case or the identity of the investigating officer. Station commander Brigadier Gerda van Niekerk did not return our phone calls, and another Kraaifontein police officer, who did not want to be named, referred all further queries about the case to the SAPS provincial spokesman Colonel FC Van Wyk. Northern News contacted Colonel Van Wyk who referred us back to the Kraaifontein police. Kraaifontein’s media liaison officer left the station last year and has not been replaced.

Well known defence attorney, William Booth, told Northern News that if Kraaifontein police had felt a serious crime , such as assault, had been committed, they could have arrested the suspects without their lawyers present.

If the police had evidence under oath, including a J88 or an affidavit, of a serious crime, an arrest could be made if the police felt it would take too long to get an arrest warrant, which a suspect usually had a right to see.

“If the police have not arrested the suspects for (four months), why haven’t they issued summons?” he said.

He advised the Steyn family to approach the station commander, the office of the provincial commissioner or the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). The family could also approach a senior prosecutor at either the Kuils River or Blue Downs magistrate’s courts.

Kraaifontein Community Policing Forum spokesman Giovanni Pasquallie said while the odd incident of lax policing was likely to occur because the precinct was under resourced, it should not be used as an excuse.

“It is our key responsibility to ensure service relationships between the public and the police,” Mr Pasquallie said.