A VETERAN Port Alfred magistrate has recused himself from the trial of a local anti-crime member, who allegedly murdered one man and attempted to kill another, claiming he was a friend of one of the accused's colleagues.
Magistrate Walter le Grange told Ponso Futuse he would have to stay in jail for another week before he could make a formal bail application in front of relief magistrate Louis Muller from nearby Alexandria.
Futuse has been behind bars for almost a month after he was arrested in Port Alfred's crime-ridden Nelson Mandela Township (Nemato) by detectives from the organised crime unit in East London.
Le Grange said the "burden" he had to carry for working in a small town like Port Alfred for the past 21 years was that "you start to know people".
"This is the price you pay if you have certain friends in the community," Le Grange explained. "One person in anti-crime is my friend and justice must be seen to be done."
Although he did not name his friend in local anti- crime circles, the man is believed to be veteran crime fighter Vukile Simon Thembani.
Le Grange assured Futuse even though he would get a fair trial if he presided over the matter, it was better to recuse himself now to prevent any possible problems later. "Objectively speaking, it is in the best interests for justice to be served if I recuse myself."
Futuse was arrested at the beginning of the month after a revenge attack on two brothers who had allegedly murdered one of his relatives. One man was gunned down and the other seriously assualted. His unnamed brother was arrested soon afterwards along with Thembani for allegedly being in possession of an unlicensed firearm, but they were both released after appearing separately in court.
La Grange apologised to Futuse for not putting his friendship on the record during previous appearances and recusing himself as prosecutor Paul Rossouw is believed to have done earlier.
Although the court roll is tight, relief prosecutor Tertius van der Merwe urged La Grange to prioritise Futuse's next appearance for November 5.