Illovo Sugar’s murder-accused released on bail

The security manager at Illovo Sugar’s Noodsberg Sugar Mill (NSM) accused of shooting and killing an alleged protestor at the mill in self-defence in early September, was recently released on R4 000 bail by KwaZulu-Natal’s New Hanover Magistrate’s Court.

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Philemon Zondi had been charged with the murder of Muzwandile Ngcobo during a violent protest at the mill.

The protest was reportedly driven by casual workers, and their supporters, at NSM who were demanding permanent employment at the mill. Reports also indicated that members of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) political party had allegedly been among the protestors and that these EFF members may have instigated the protest.

Earlier police reports said that the approximately 100 protestors had been armed with hoe handles and garden forks, and had been extremely aggressive. It was believed that a group of these protestors, with Ngcobo among them, had allegedly attacked Zondi, prompting him to fire the shot in self-defence that killed Ngcobo. The protestors had allegedly also set fire to two motor vehicles on NSM premises.

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Captain Gay Ebrahim, spokesperson for the uMgungundlovu North Cluster of the SAPS, said that there had been a large gathering of people outside of the New Hanover Magistrate’s Court to protest against Zondi being given bail. No incidents of unrest had been reported during this gathering.

“The matter regarding the malicious damage to property and the illegal gathering [at NSM] is still under investigation. No arrests have been made yet. The situation is still being policed and closely monitored,” said Ebrahim.

Illovo Sugar South Africa’s managing director, Dave Howells, said that Zondi had not yet been asked to plead to the charge against him, and that the police investigation into the fatal shooting at NSM was still underway.

Regarding efforts to resolve the dispute between NSM and the protesting casual employees, Howells said that “a mediation process has been arranged between Illovo’s management and representatives of the casual workers. We are not having any dealings with the EFF, however”.

The EFF did not respond to enquiries on the matter from Farmer’s Weekly.