bail application - community activism - Marikana - North West High Court
On 27 July 2017, the North West High Court ordered the release of Marikana housing and land rights activist Napoleon Webster on bail, pending his trial on charges relating to his alleged participation in the murder of a local ward councillor. Webster believes the charges are politically motivated because of his community campaigns in Marikana. Webster is a vocal opponent of the African National Congress (ANC) and is closely associated with Black First Land First and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). He has been an active supporter of the victims of the Marikana massacre and was a consistent presence at the proceedings of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry. At the time of his release on Friday 28 July, Webster would have spent 202 days in Rustenburg prison.
There is strong evidence that Webster was arrested because of his activism and not on the basis of any reasonable suspicion that he has committed any offence. This includes two witnesses whose testimony place Webster over a kilometre away from the location of murder at the time it took place.
Prior to his release, SERI filed a notice of appeal in the Magistrates' Court on Webster's behalf noting an appeal to the North West High Court. The appeal contested the refusal of the magistrate to grant Webster bail on a variety of grounds.
On 22 May 2018, Justice Ronnie Hendricks discharged Webster and found him not guilty after the prosecution failed to produce any evidence that linked Webster to the death of Sabata. Prosecutors ultimately conceded that Webster was entitled to an acquittal, and accepted that the State had failed to “establish [Webster’s] involvement” in the murder. The State also accepted that the witnesses who implicated Webster had testified out of malice and lacked any credibility.