IT came as a surprise at the Port Alfred Magistrate’s Court yesterday (Wednesday August 24) when murder accused Tonny Donile claimed there was a racial bias to his case during his bail application.
It was standing room only when Donile was led into court. The 41-year-old was immediately put on the stand by his Legal Aid defence attorney, Basil Williams.
Magistrate Xolile Dlulisa explained to Donile that anything said at the bail hearing could and would be used by the prosecution in his subsequent trial.
According to Donile, he and his girlfriend, Pia Roser, whom he had been seeing for the past seven years, lived at 3 Alfred Road and had been shopping together on Women’s Day, August 9. Roser had then left to go to church, and Donile had called her later to ask if she wanted to go out. According to him Roser had said she was going to bed and Donile had travelled to the Alfred Road home at around midnight to see her.
He made his way to the back door to gain entrance to the kitchen, saying the couple shared a key. He opened the door but found something blocking it. He then placed his hand on a cupboard inside the kitchen and immediately withdrew when someone stabbed his hand with a knife, he said. The kitchen door was slammed against him and locked.
Donile said he then shouted in dismay for his girlfriend, worried that something was wrong. A male voice within the kitchen demanded, “Who the f**k is there?” After a brief exchange of expletives Donile admitted to breaking down the door and forcibly entering the kitchen where he was confronted by a naked white man who was brandishing a knife, passing it from hand to hand.
Donile said he reached for the knife, sustaining another cut and, during the ensuing scuffle, he managed to get away and searched through cupboards and other rooms in the house to find Roser.
Donile explained he left the house toward the police station when it occurred to him that any white police officers on duty might not understand his predicament, claiming that “no one liked the fact that I, a black man, was going out with a white woman.”
In a confused state, Donile phoned a detective friend, named as Thambo, and asked to be collected and taken to the police station. He then flagged down a passing police vehicle and was taken to the police station in Port Alfred to make a statement.
Under cross examination Donile admitted to pleading guilty to several assault charges since 2004, but said they were minor because, as a tavern owner, such charges were a natural consequence of the job. Carstens accused Donile of avoiding answering questions.
Carstens stated that Roser was afraid of Donile and had sustained injuries on at least two occasions in the past. He questioned whether Donile had actually lived at the Alfred Road home for more than one night from July 4. Donile said he was defending himself when he had stabbed Maddocks, but Carstens asked if it were really necessary to stab someone 30 times in order to do so.
When asked why he had been picked up by police at the top of Albany Road, in the opposite direction of the police station, which was only around 500m from the scene of the crime, Donile said he had been confused.
Donile then claimed that the people of the town were against him being granted bail because of his colour.
“If it had been me who had been killed, the people of the town would not have come out and tried to stop bail being granted,” he said through the interpreter.
Magistrate Dlulisa looked around the court at the sea of black faces, dispersed with a few white ones, and questioned if this was really the case.
The court adjourned at 1pm to resume at 1.45pm, too late for the decision to be included in this edition of the paper. However, please follow us on Facebook or Twitter where the decision will be reported once it becomes available.