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News - Date: 09 April 2018
Written by: Anton van Zyl / Viewed: 2010
“I am relieved that it is now over, but it affected almost all aspects of my personal and professional life,” said Dr Ntavhanyeni Sampie Phaswana on Tuesday. Phaswana was acquitted on a charge of pointing a firearm in the Louis Trichardt Magistrate’s Court last week. During an interview with the Zoutpansberger, he spoke about the false charge brought against him and how it had affected him and his family over the past year.
Dr Phaswana is a well-known personality in the province and is a circuit manager of the Department of Education. He is also an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. As a “man of the cloth” the allegations made and the subsequent treatment he received were even more traumatic, he said.
It all started on 31 December 2016 when his son, Asakundwi (Asa), arrived home complaining that he was being bullied and terrorised by a young man in the park next to Tshirululuni Street, Louis Trichardt. Asa was clearly shaken and described how the young man had first wanted to take his bicycle and then assaulted him.
Phaswana decided to look for the young man responsible for this and speak to him. He and Asa drove to the park and found a young boy there who had seen what had happened. He pointed to an address in Jasmyn Street where the family of the young man live.
When Phaswana arrived at the address, he went into the home and met Tshifhiwa Doreen Maphiri and her friend, Veronica Mandiwana. He introduced himself and explained what had happened to Asa. In court it was testified that Tshifhiwa Maphiri initially kneeled down, asking for forgiveness. “I told her that it was the young man who should ask for forgiveness, not she,” Phaswana said.
It was during this incident that the woman apparently saw the pistol in a holster on Phaswana’s ankle. “I did not take the pistol to the lady’s house with the purpose to do anything. I was coming from my lodge, Bo die Krans Lodge, where we often deal with cash. I always carry my pistol with me,” explained Phaswana. When Phaswana was asked to sit down, the pistol became visible.
Maphiri needed to make sure whether it was her son who had been involved in the incident and, according to Phaswana, she tried to phone him. She also phoned the father, but they were unable to trace him.
Phaswana and his son then left the house to again ascertain that the young man, called Junior, was indeed involved in the alleged incident. “We drove around the neighbourhood and I saw three boys who were with Asa when it happened. They confirmed Asa’s version of events,” said Phaswana. He then went back to the house of the Maphiris, telling them that it was indeed their son. He again urged them to come to his house to discuss the matter.
“Just as we were driving back home, we saw a black VW Golf with four young people inside, driving towards the home. I turned and followed the car after Asa pointed out that Junior was in that car,” explained Phaswana. According to his testimony in court, he stopped next to the vehicle and said to the woman: “This is the person who did it.” He then left.
“About an hour later the police came to my home. They said that there was a case opened against me. I asked them what the charges were. They said: pointing a firearm,” Phaswana described the events of that day.
It later transpired that the women alleged that Phaswana had pulled out his gun and pointed it at Tshifhiwa Maphiri. Phaswana had to go to the police station and narrowly avoided spending the last night of 2016 in jail. “I had to phone around for assistance, and after a lot of persuasion I was released on a warning,” explained Phaswana.
Phaswana can still clearly recall the trauma during the interrogation process. “I told them it was my boy who had been bullied. I called Asa to come and explain to the police what had happened. I told the police that the two women were not a threat to me or Asa. There was no need to point a firearm at any one of them,” he said.
All this was to no avail, and Phaswana was charged for pointing a firearm. For the next 15 months he had to endure a stressful and very expensive court process.
Phaswana’s lawyer, Mr André Naudé, started cross-examining the three witnesses on 17 August last year. The argument was that many inconsistencies existed in the versions of the witnesses. The trial continued on 17 January, and once again Mr Naudé knocked holes in the State’s case. “It is clear that they colluded in order to tell a story to this court,” he argued.
Naudé pointed out that the first witness had incorrectly identified Nkhelebeni Phaswana as the accused. Nkhelebeni is the brother of Sampie Phaswana and is described as a billionaire. Naudé also highlighted the numerous differences between the original affidavits taken down by the police and the testimony in court.
On 27 March, Magistrate Bennie Smit acquitted Phaswana, finding that there was not enough evidence to suggest that the accused had acted in an unlawful manner. He found the version of events as depicted by the complainants to be unlikely. He also concurred with the defence that Phaswana’s version of what had happened that day was the more likely version of the truth.
The case might be over, but the scars will take a long time to heal for Dr Phaswana. “I did not want vengeance,” he said on Tuesday. He believes conflict should be handled in a mature and responsible manner, which implies that one first try and discuss problems. “I did not want to lay a charge against the young man who had bullied my son,” he said, “because that might have led to a criminal record.” Unfortunately, his efforts to promote dialogue did not work out the way he intended.
As for the future, Phaswana wants to move on. “I am at peace with all my neighbours,” he said.
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Dr Ntavhanyeni Sampie Phaswana.
Anton van Zyl has been with the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror for over 27 years. He graduated at the the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and obtained a BA Communications degree. He is a founder member of the Association of Independent Publishers.