PORT ELIZABETH, April 16 – A 38-year old Port Elizabeth father made his first appearance in the New Brighton Magistrate’s Court on Monday on a charge of child abuse after he allegedly flung his one-year-old baby girl from a roof during the demolishing operation of illegal houses.
At his first court appearance, a charge of attempted murder was withdrawn against Mthobeki Katali after the prosecution indicated that he would be charged with child abuse, a schedule one offence until such time there was further evidence to institute a charge of attempted murder.
The issue of a fixed home address also became an issue of contention on Monday with the State arguing that he could not be released as he did have a fixed address after his structure was demolished last week.
Last week, Katali allegedly used his daughter and threatened to throw her from a shack roof in an attempt to force metro officials not to take down the structure.
As police moved in to stop him, Katali allegedly threw the little girl from the rooftop but she was fortunately caught by a metro police member and was unharmed during the ordeal.
The baby girl has since been placed in the care of social services.
State prosecutor Nontshumayelo Balicawa opposed bail based on the charge of child abuse being provisional and that police were unable to verify his new address after his shack was demolished last week.
Balicawa said: “If you look at the nature of the offence, the child was thrown from a roof.”
However, legal aid attorney Mxolisi Moolman argued that it was not a procedure for an accused person to be kept in custody because the state “was still thinking” about a future charge. Moolman said police had 48 hours to verify his address and Katali should not be kept in custody because the police did not do their jobs.
But Balicawa questioned that if he were to be released on bail where would he go. “If he is released, then where to? The address is not verified. Where will the court release him to?” she asked.
Community members from the Joe Slovo informal settlement protested outside court on Monday in support of the father. They refused to speak to reporters and claimed the media were reporting incorrectly on the incident, even though video footage seemingly shows how the child was flung into the air.
Magistrate Shivan Maharaj said the court needed to take the child’s interests into consideration. “The court is more comfortable getting social workers report in the interests of the child. The address needs to be verified, we can’t allow bail and there is no fixed address,” she said.
The case was postponed until April 23 for the verification of Katali’s address.
Meanwhile, metro police member Luyolo Nojulumba who caught the baby girl during the ordeal was also in court on Monday. Nojulumba said that he immediately recognised Katali when he appeared in the dock and insisted that the law should take its course.
Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson on police Zakhele Mbhele and DA Eastern Cape leader, who also heads up the human settlements portfolio in Nelson Mandela Bay, Nqaba Bhanga, both attended court proceedings.
Bhanga said the metro was not required to provide alternative accommodation for the shack dwellers because they had not been staying there for a period of more than six months. “In this case, the law does not give us any obligation, that is why we removed them immediately for us not to have this expense. People have to go through a formal housing list process.”
Bhanga said the site at Joe Slovo informal settlement already had beneficiaries, old beneficiaries who were supposed to be settling in that area “There is no way that as a city we would allow people to jump the queue and take opportunities from people who waited for 25 years and substitute with people who occupy that parcel of land. As a city we removed these people promptly because if we left them there for six months we would be obligated for us to provide alternative accommodation,” said Bhanga.
– African News Agency (ANA)