South Africa

'Bipolar' Senekal businessman denied bail as wife attempts to confront witness

'Bipolar' Senekal businessman denied bail as wife attempts to confront witness

The 51-year-old businessman arrested for his alleged role in a fiery protest in the Free State last week has been denied bail.

André Pienaar appeared before magistrate Buti Mlangeni in the Senekal magistrate’s court on Tuesday morning.

Providing reasons for refusing bail, Mlangeni said Pienaar told the court earlier that he had close ties with the community, but this was the same community he allegedly attacked.

Mlangeni said Pienaar was accused of attacking a female police officer who was executing her duty. This showed he doesn’t hesitate to use violence against anyone who comes in his way.

He said there was a risk Pienaar would interfere with the police investigation.

Mlangeni said the personal details of potential witnesses was easily accessible through court documents. In his short time in custody, Pienaar was able to identify witnesses who could potentially exonerate him, Mlangeni said.

“This was a deliberate attempt to jeopardise a criminal investigation.”

Mlangeni said Pienaar further allegedly tried to undermine the rule of law by damaging court property and holding cells, which could have led to the escape of awaiting trial prisoners. This potentially could have caused serious harm to the public.

Mlangeni said gunshots were fired in the court room  and personnel, mostly women, had to be evacuated.

“Anyone who assaults a woman, assaults a nation,” he said.

Regarding the charges he faces, Mlangeni said Pienaar had no respect for law and order and it was therefore not in the interests of justice to release him on bail.

Pienaar, who owns a construction company, sat calmly with his face covered with a surgical mask in the dock. He looked straight ahead while Mlangeni went through his bail application.

His wife was seated in the second row of the court. She wept when he was denied bail.

After court adjourned, she attempted to confront the witness for the state, Brig Tshokolo Posholi. She was held back by a family member.

“He is laughing at me! He is laughing at me!” the woman said.

Pienaar made his first appearance in court on Friday. Initially he was charged only with malicious damage to property and public violence, but the court heard last week that he faced two additional charges — attempted murder and terrorism.

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On Tuesday, the court heard the terrorism charge had been dropped. The state told the court it did not receive authorisation from the national directorate of prosecutions to proceed with the terrorism charge.

In his affidavit last week, it was revealed Pienaar had a previous theft conviction. He admitted to the 2011 theft, for which his sentence was wholly suspended for three years on condition he paid back he money.

Pienaar told the court in his affidavit that he was bipolar and on chronic medication.

The businessman was among those outside the court when an “unruly group” staged a protest to “demand justice” for murdered farm manager Brendin Horner.

Two suspects appeared in court on last Wednesday for the murder of 21-year-old Horner, who was killed one year to the day after he started working for the Scheepers family, close to the small Free State town of Paul Roux.

Posholi, provincial head of the organised crime and commercial crime units in the Free State, previously told the court that a female warrant officer, clad in full uniform, who attempted to prevent the protesters from entering court, was threatened and throttled.

The court heard the accused was a violent person and his actions, aimed at the two murder accused, showed “an element of resentment”.

On Tuesday, roads leading to the court were barricaded with police tape and Nyalas. Armed officers stood close to the court and a trailer with barbed wire was also seen in the area.

In contrast to last week, a doctor’s practice close to the court was open.

No supporters were seen close to court.

The case has been postponed to November 20 for further investigation.

* An earlier version of this story stated that Pienaar's wife had tried to slap the police officer. This is incorrect. She approached him and was held back, but did not accost him. We sincerely apologise for the error. 

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