25 March 2023 | 04:05 AM

Charges against lensman escalated

Key Takeaways

Mail & Guardian photographer Oupa Nkosi is facing trial for “assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm” following an incident in which Nkosi’s camera was smashed during an investigative assignment in Ledig, North West province.

Nkosi and amaBhungane reporter Ilham Rawoot were investigating a community dispute over mining rights at the time of the incident in October.

Police appear to have lost the statement Nkosi made when laying counter-charges.

This week Nkosi appeared in the Mogwase Magistrate’s Court, where he found the original assault charge had been escalated to one of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.

The charge sheet claims he assaulted Peggy Pilane, a member of the traditional council of the 30 000- strong Bakubung community at Ledig, near Sun City.

After Nkosi’s camera was smashed by members of the community, he laid his own charge of assault and malicious damage to property.

His trial is due to take place on February 17.

On October 18 last year Rawoot and Nkosi visited Ledig to investigate disputes among the Bakubung over monetary and share proceeds from mineral rights, as well as leadership tussles between the royal family and the traditional council.

The pair stopped at the local tavern to talk to disgruntled community members, some of whom

accompanied them to a large house owned by Pilane, who is involved in the Bakubung Eco- nomic Development Unit — the council’s vehicle for investments from the proceeds of the sale of mineral assets.

The journalists were working on tip-offs about the houses owned by Pilane and other traditional council members.

“After photographing a large, newly painted house that contrasted with the shacks surrounding it, we found we had a tail,” Rawoot recalls.

Two cars were following them.

She alleges that the occupants of the cars, two of whom were council members, accosted them and began abusing them.

Nkosi’s camera was allegedly damaged in a stoning incident.

In two separate statements, which form part of the prosecution case, Pilane puts the location of the alleged assault outside her house and outside the school.

In the first, she says Nkosi acted “aggressively”, while in the second she claims that she was “kicked in the knee and punched with a closed fist”.

A report by Dr Tieho Mejaele says Pilane was “tender” in five different places — the left scapula, spine, anterior, suprapubic and right knee areas, but she had no lesions, her breathing was unaf- fected and her range of movement was good.

The doctor’s visit took place on October 21, three days after the alleged incident.

Investigating officer Steven Matuba said this week he did not know where Nkosi’s statement was, but he would check and phone back. He did not.

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Aisha Abdool Karim

Aisha is a freelance science and health reporter. She is joining the amaB team to work on a project about water and sanitation. Aisha’s passion for long-form narrative and investigative journalism was sparked while doing her master’s degree at Columbia University in New York. After graduating in 2018, she returned to South Africa and began working as a general beat reporter for the Daily Maverick. Aisha joined the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism in 2020 to focus on science reporting. During her time there, she covered the COVID-19 pandemic extensively — from fact-checking harmful medical misinformation to unpacking the science behind vaccine development. Aisha’s special interests include analysing health systems and in-depth coverage of public health issues and infectious diseases. She also loves spreadsheets and digging through data.

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