April 27 2010 at 09:58AM
By Sharika Regchand
Colleagues of a traffic officer charged with assaulting a Cato Ridge woman for failing to get out of his way on the freeway tried to bar the media from photographing him yesterday.
Edward Xolani Mtshali's first court appearance was brief and his case was adjourned to May 14, so that his legal team could obtain statements.
Clad in a suit, the burly traffic officer, who works in the Road Traffic Inspectorate's public transport enforcement unit, was not asked to plead.
His uniformed colleagues, who were in court to support him, tried to block photographers from taking pictures of him.
The officers, whose name tags indicated they were from the Transport Department's investigative unit, yelled at the photographers, saying they had no right to take pictures of Mtshali, 29.
The photographers responded that they had obtained permission from magistrate Lennox Phoswa.
The officers then noted the names of the photographers and journalists, saying they would inquire if permission had been granted.
Mtshali is charged with assault. According to the charge sheet, he assaulted Jude Ward at the Camperdown police station on January 18.
It is alleged he pushed her to the ground, placed his knee on her back and hit her forehead on the floor.
Ward said she was driving in the fast lane on the N3 when a man driving an unmarked white bakkie tried to pass her.
The man, who she had not known was a traffic officer, wagged his finger, indicating that she should pull over. However, it appeared to be a violent gesture so she continued driving.
Thinking it might be a hijack attempt, she drove to the Camperdown police station for protection, followed by the bakkie. She went into the station, followed by the officer, who screamed that he was going to arrest her. He then assaulted her.
Ward was charged with reckless and negligent driving, and failing to comply with a traffic officer's instructions.
She later counter-charged him with assault.
The Transport Department, which is awaiting the outcome of the case, has not taken any action against Mtshali.
Ward, who was not in court yesterday, said she was upset that it had taken three months for Mtshali to appear in court but that she was was glad it had finally happened.
Ward is to stand trial on June 15.
This article was originally published on page 2 of The Mercury on April 27, 2010