'Maswanganyi attackers planned to kill another cop'

The accused are currently applying for bail in the Pretoria North Magistrate's Court.

Police investigate the scene where a top Johannesburg policeman's body was found near Hammanskraal, just outside Pretoria, on 18 June 2013. Picture: Christa van der Walt/EWN.

PRETORIA - The state has charged the four men accused of killing senior Johannesburg policeman Tirhani Maswanganyi with murder.

This emerged in the charge sheet presented during their bail application on Tuesday afternoon in the Pretoria North Magistrate's Court. The four men made a brief appearance in court before their bail hearing was postponed until today.

The officer's half-naked body was discovered bound and dumped in a field near Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, in June.

The state alleges that a week before Maswanganyi's murder, the four accused conspired to murder another police officer.

While it's clear their plan didn't materialise, further details are expected to emerge in court.

The National Prosecuting Authority official in court declined to provide details, saying he would provide further comment after the bail application.

A provincial police spokesman said the matter was now being handled by the national office which could not be reached for comment.

Because of the seriousness of the crime, the accused will have to show exceptional circumstances why they should be released on bail.

SOLDIER IMPLICATED

It emerged on Tuesday that one of the accused is employed in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and has a rape conviction.

Private Isaac Vele is employed as a driver in the SANDF's Internal Support Services and is based in Pretoria.

In his bail application, he told the court he has a previous conviction of rape, for which he received a suspended sentence.

Vele said he couldn't understand how he's been implicated in the murder because on the day in question he was picking up his chief of staff at OR Tambo International Airport.

His commanding officer has written an affidavit supporting his claim, but it emerged in court that the document hadn't been commissioned.

PREMEDITATED MURDER

Earlier this month, a state prosecutor told the court Maswanganyi's murder was premeditated.

The prosecutor told the court the officer's murder was planned, but the state failed to discuss the motive for the crime.

The state is expected to reveal more details as the case continues.

Maswanganyi was transferred to Johannesburg 18 months ago to help with rampant crime and to clean up the force.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and political parties have strongly condemned the killing.