Seven South African men accused of killing Elvis Nyathi, a Zimbabwean national who fell victim to a vigilante group in Diepsloot township last month, have been granted bail after spending three weeks behind bars.
Observers say the case of Elvis Nyathi is one of many where foreign nationals have suffered an increasing level of anti-immigrant attacks resulting from South Africa’s high unemployment rates, with locals accusing outsiders, especially undocumented migrants, of taking jobs and committing crime.
Magistrate Hleziphi Mkhasibe, who set bail for each of the seven accused at 3,000 Rands, ordered the defendants not to interfere with witnesses and to return to court on July 7.
Mkhasibe listed several reasons that motivated the bail decision, among them, the withdrawal of a statement by a witness who initially positively identified five of the accused, admitting they were merely people she was acquainted with.
In the bail hearing, Mkhasibe also said “the investigating officers failed to show the role each suspect allegedly played in the murder of Elvis Nyathi,” adding “none of the accused were arrested at the scene.”
The Nyathi family expressed disappointment with the Magistrate's actions.
“We were expecting that the court will take a decision that will make others know that no one has the right to take law into their own hands,” said Mphathisi Ndlovu, a cousin of the victim, adding “But anyway there is nothing we can do, if the court saw that they deserve to be outside we have to just accept that.”
Phindi Mjonondwane, speaking for South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority, stressed that the accused and their families should not get comfortable, asserting that the NPA has a strong case and evidence that will be unveiled during the trial.
“We were at this stage of bail application and therefore there was no need for us to prove our case beyond reasonable doubt,” said Mjonondwane, adding, “We will get that opportunity to do so, and once investigations are complete, we will start preparing for our case.”