The defence lawyer representing EFF leader Julius Malema and MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi in the Winnie Madikizela-Mandela funeral assault case continued to poke holes in Lieutenant-Colonel Johannes Venter’s version that he was assaulted at the Fourways Memorial Park Cemetery.
Lieutenant-Colonel Johannes Venter took the stand as the trial started in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court, relating to a scuffle between himself and the two EFF leaders when he blocked them from entering the burial site of Struggle icon Winnie Mandela in 2018.
Venter, who is attached to the Presidential Unit, was charged with access control at the Fourways Memorial Park cemetery on the day of the funeral. He opened assault cases against Malema and Ndlozi after a scuffle broke out when he tried to bar their vehicle from entering the graveyard.
Defence lawyer Laurence Hodes said Venter did not stop several civilian cars that entered the cemetery and did not know who was in those vehicles. He also argued that the vehicle Malema and EFF MP Mbuyuseni Ndlozi were travelling in had the necessary permits to be in the area.
Hodes argued that it was in fact Venter who was the aggressor during a scuffle, using the video evidence submitted to court to show that two constables who were at the scene held him back in a bid to calm him down.
Hodes pointed out to Venter that the car was authorised to be in the vicinity and it had the permit, which he pointed out on the dashboard of the Mercedes Benz V-Class the EFF members were travelling.
Venter disputed that it was a permit and said it looked like a reflection from the rain. He said “I see what I see, it is a reflection, there are water droplets on the windscreen. “As I had stated. I did not see accreditation, I see a reflection”.
He later conceded: “There can be something on top of the dashboard”.
Hodes put it to Venter that he was the only person from the security detail who had a problem with Malema and Ndlozi’s presence. He agreed.
Hodes also put it to Venter that the junior police officers appeared to be shouting at him in a bid to calm him down. He said “The constable appears to be shouting at you, she’s got her finger up.
“She’s gesturing something to you which is causing you to move backwards. “She appears to be shouting at you”.
However, Venter said “At no stage did she shout at me”.
He also said the police officers were supporting him, which was disputed by Hodes, who said if they were supporting him, they would not have been holding him back. .
Meanwhile, on Wednesday in court, Venter’s evidence also came under scrutiny as discrepancies between his testimony and his statement when he opened the case emerged.
He admitted that he blocked the vehicle ferrying Malema and Ndlozi as it was not permitted to enter and that he told them to walk into the cemetery instead, which the EFF leaders rejected.
Venter said the two were neither part of the family nor the military convoy that included President Cyril Ramaphosa, which were the only vehicles allowed inside the cemetery.
He said “The whole convoy was already inside the premises. Their vehicle came afterwards. There was no escort for the said vehicle”.
Venter alleged that he was pushed while he stood in front of Malema’s vehicle. He then made a call to the venue operation centre to get instructions.
He said “I cannot say who first pushed me. “As I turned around and looked back, I saw Mr Malema jumping out the vehicle, and he said: ‘No white man will stop me.’ “While I was still at the front of the vehicle, I was pushed towards the left of the vehicle”.
He said Malema and Ndlozi then pushed him “hard”, repeatedly. “They pushed me so hard that I lost my balance. “I was pushed so hard that I fell against the gate of the cemetery.”
Venter added that at that stage a General Zulu warned him to avoid an altercation.
Hodes questioned why Venter did not know Malema was considered part of the grieving family despite being among the prominent speakers at the funeral.
He said “What I want to put to Sir is that there was an official programme and that Accused No1, Malema, was instrumental”.
Hodes also poked holes in Venter’s claim that he only stopped the vehicle in which Malema and Ndlozi were driving and not them, pointing out that he had made it clear in his first statement that he had stopped the two leaders and not their vehicle.
In his first statement in 2018, when opening the case, Venter said he told Malema and Ndlozi that they were not allowed to get inside the cemetery, according to instructions he received.
Venter said he made a mistake in his first statement, adding that “at that stage, I was still under shock”.
Hodes, however, blasted Venter’s explanation as “worse than ridiculous”.
Hodes questioned how Venter, who had 36 years of duty as a policeman under his belt, with six of them working under the Presidential Unit, could make material mistakes in his own statement.
The trial continues.