The officer in charge of the case of the suspected murder of Reeva Steenkamp, Warrant officer Hilton Botha, will face seven charges of attempted murder possibly later this year. The officer had been removed from the case but was then put in charge because of his seniority. How can it be appropriate for an officer accused of such serious crimes to find himself in charge of a murder case? Moreover, the charges against Hilton Botha, 38, were originally dropped but were then dramatically reinstated yesterday. Neither the prosecution nor defence counsel were aware of any charges that may have been levied against the warrant officer.
The allegations against Botha stem from an incident that occurred in 2009, involving two other police officers. Allegedly, all have been accused of ‘opening fire while drunk’ on a taxi containing seven passengers. Notwithstanding the serious allegations against him, Botha will remain in charge of this murder case, despite the fact that this must seriously call into question his integrity. In most mature western countries, officers are suspended when allegations of such a serious nature lead to charges and inevitable prosecution.
Leaving Botha at the helm of such a high profile murder allegation must weaken the case against Pistorius and raises serious questions about the propriety and impartiality in the South African police service and, wider still, in the fallibility of their justice system.