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Police return gadgets belonging to ’unrest instigator Sphithiphithi Evaluator’

The aftermath of looting at a mall that took place during last year’s July unrest. One of the alleged instigators known as Sphithiphithi Evaluator has had her gadgets that were confiscated by police returned. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

The aftermath of looting at a mall that took place during last year’s July unrest. One of the alleged instigators known as Sphithiphithi Evaluator has had her gadgets that were confiscated by police returned. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 3, 2022

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Pretoria - Police have returned gadgets belonging to one of the alleged July unrest instigators known as Sphithiphithi Evaluator after she instructed her lawyer, Goldrich Gardee, to write a letter of demand to Police Minister Bheki Cele.

The 36-year-old woman, who has asked that her name not be disclosed but is popularly known as “Sphithiphithi Evaluator” on social media, through her lawyer had given the police until today to return her gadgets.

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In August, while arresting her, the police confiscated her laptop, cellphone, Ipad, wi-fi router and memory sticks, among others. Some of the seized gadgets belonged to her children.

The woman is accused of instigating violence during former president Jacob Zuma’s jailing in July after he refused to testify at the state capture commission chaired by Constitutional Court Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

A letter addressed to national police commissioner General Bheki Sitole, seen by the Pretoria News, stated that if the gadgets were not returned by today court action would be activated.

Gardee wrote in part: “The letter serves as an official written notification that our client intends to institute legal proceedings at the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, for the return of electronic gadgets and equipment by no later than January 3 (today).”

It continued: “In the circumstances we are instructed to demand, as we hereby do, that you should return all the confiscated electronic gadgets and equipment.”

A source close to the police said the police feared legal action because they might not have a basis to keep the gadgets.

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Cele’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba, said the department did not wish to comment because it was a civil suit. She said: “All civil suits go to the office of the State attorney and the Police Ministry is not in a position to comment on the case or merits thereof.”

Late last year the Pretoria News reported that the businesswoman was suing the State for several millions of rand for loss of income, trauma and public humiliation, among others.

This is after she claimed she was arrested unlawfully, kept inside a dark room for two days and forced to reveal the pin codes of her electronic devices.

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The arrest was made by 10 plain-clothed police officers who she also claimed didn’t have an arrest warrant but had a search and seizure warrant which “did not specify the gadgets they were looking for”.

The businesswoman from Ekurhuleni in Gauteng, who has been critical of President Cyril Ramaphosa on social media, was charged with incitement to public violence following the unrest.

She has since denied the allegations, saying the police rounded her up for the sole purpose of unmasking and silencing her.

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Her arrest led to an outcry in some quarters and accusations of abuse of power to silence dissidents levelled against the police and Ramaphosa’s government in general.

Sphithiphithi appeared at the Germiston Magistrate’s Court again late last year. However, her case was postponed to February 28.

Pretoria News

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