Chelsea Pieterse, The Witness
Angry community members blok the path of a police car outside the BNew Hanover magistrates court where murder accused Edward Philip Solomon appeared for a bail application on Tuesday. (Chelsea Pieterse )
This was argued on Tuesday by defence advocate Brad Osborne on behalf of the farmer, who is charged with shooting dead a mourner at a funeral on his farm on December 30 last year.
The prosecution will reply to the defence arguments on Thursday.
Solomon appeared in court wearing black overalls with a mop of wild grey hair and an unkempt beard.
Solomon is charged with the murder of Mothi Ngubane and the attempted murder of Mondli Lembethe, at whom he had allegedly discharged a firearm.
It is alleged by the State that on December 30, Solomon was at home on his farm in Otto’s Bluff, Cramond, when he heard noises and went to investigate.
Osborne has told the court that Solomon claims he found that a funeral was being held and he approached the mourners and tried to stop the burial.
Solomon was allegedly confronted by Ngubane and Lembethe and a “violent argument ensued”.
Osborne alleged that Solomon acted in self defence and that he felt he had no other option but to discharge his firearm. He said it was in the interests of justice to release Solomon on bail as there was no evidence that he is a danger to the public, would cause public disruption, or that he would try to evade his trial.
Osborne said although the state had opposed bail on the grounds of Solomon’s personal safety and that his release would disrupt public order, his past conduct suggested otherwise.
He said all Solomon’s firearms have been confiscated by police, save one that was in for repairs at a Pietermaritzburg gun shop. He added that Solomon would not be able to travel as his identity document had also been confiscated by police.
He said he knew there was public outrage surrounding the case, however, the public had to respect the Constitution and Solomon’s right to a fair trial.
“Just because he has been charged does not mean he is guilty at this stage.
“There is a demand for vigilantism but the court cannot be swayed by emotions and the fear of mob justice.”
He added that the court needed to be careful not to override Solomon’s rights due to public outcry.
Osborne also said that should Solomon be released on bail, he could not be harmed if the public did not know where he is and his safety could be guaranteed.
He added that Solomon had been detained in isolation and that “in itself is cruel and unusual form of punishment”.
Meanwhile, outside the court, a large crowd of angry community members gathered at the gates again yesterday in protest against Solomon being released on bail.
Singing songs and holding signs, the community crowded the entrance to the court property throughout the day while police stood by, monitoring the situation. According to a previous article published in The Witness police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said it was alleged that Solomon showed up at the funeral of a Lembethe family member at the farm with a firearm.
“He [allegedly] demanded that the people who attended the funeral must leave. When one of the funeral-goers spoke to him, he allegedly shot the man before fleeing the scene in his vehicle.
“The 30-year-old man sustained gunshot wounds to the upper body and died at the scene. The Cramond police started to search for the suspect and he was placed under arrest for murder,” said Gwala.
A few days after the incident at the farm, Solomon’s partner, Marie-Louise Bucher, was attacked and rushed to hospital.
The Witness was told on Tuesday she is recovering and is currently staying with friends.