News24 – SAPA
Cape Town – Police investigating the hijack bid by University of Cape Town student Tinashe Rioga have given up trying to trace the person who sent him a series of threatening SMS messages, the Bellville Magistrate’s court heard on Monday. This emerged in evidence at Rioga’s bail application, on which magistrate Suzette Marais is to rule on Thursday. Rioga, a 21-year-old Zimbabwean, is accused of trying to hijack a Cape Town – Johannesburg South African Airways domestic flight with a syringe on June 17. He has claimed he tried to divert the flight to Maputo because he feared that the person who sent him the threatening messages was waiting for him at Johannesburg. Under cross-examination by Rioga’s attorney, Josua Greeff, investigating officer superintendent Lungisile Manyana said he had tried to identify the sender, but even were he todo so, it would not help the prosecution’s case.
The messages were “irrelevant to the issue”, and the identity of the sender had nothing to do with the evidence in the case. If Rioga wanted to follow up the matter, he could do so himself. Manyana said he had discussed the case with the prosecutor. “We as the State felt the investigation was complete from our side.” Manyana also denied that Rioga was not informed of his rights after his arrest. “The first time the accused was handed to me at Cape Town International Airport… I warned him immediately,” said Manyana. He said he told Rioga who he was, informed him he was being investigated in connection with the attempted hijacking and advised him of his right to remain silent.
He asked Rioga if he understood his rights, and if he had anything to say. “That is when he decided to tell me,” Manyana said of Rioga’s response. Greeff said his instructions were that police only informed Rioga of his rights at a later stage, when he was in custody at the Bellville South police station. “That is not true,” answered Manyana, adding that Rioga’s confusion could stem from the fact that the police’s official written warning was handed to Rioga to fill in at the police station. Manyana told the court that South African Airways told him it had cost the airline R117796 to turn the aircraft around 30 minutes after it took off from Cape Town. The amount was primarily for transport and accommodation costs for inconvenienced passengers, and did not include fuel costs.
Prosecutor Wimpie Els told the court that the hijack bid had prejudiced South Africa’s national security. “The way he acted was not that of an amateur,” Els said. “He knew exactly what he was doing.” Greeff argued that the State was seeking preventive detention, which was intolerable in terms of the constitution. There was no likelihood that Rioga would evade trial, and no evidence in the case docket that he was a flight risk.