Bail's sliding scale: out of jail for a fee


When determining bail for an accused, a magistrate must consider the seriousness of the charge and the interests of justice. In a schedule six offence, the onus is on the accused to show exceptional circumstances for release on bail awaiting trial.

PORT ELIZABETH – A judge in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court denied murder-accused Christopher Panayiotou R50,000 bail on Friday, 5 June 2015.


Panayiotou is among several murder-accused spouses and intimate partners who applied for bail ahead of highly publicised murder trials in South Africa over the last 15 years.

Others on a list compiled by;s Erin Bates include Rameez Patel, Sindile Manqele, Shrien Dewani, Oscar Pistorius, Thandi Maqubela and Najwa Petersen.

Their bail amounts range upwards of R10,000 for Manqele to R250,000 for Patel and R1-million for Pistorius, who only paid R100,000 of that in cash.

One lawyer told that bail can be set at hundreds of rand, depending on the offence, and that the amount is determined at the magistrate&39;s discretion.

ABOVE: Bail fees are determined at a magistrate&39;s discretion, says lawyer Ulrich Roux. On Friday, Christopher Panayiotou (top left) was denied R50,000 bail in connection with his wife Jayde&39;s murder. Days earlier Rameez Patel (top centre) was released on R250,000 bail. Convicted murderer Thandi Maqubela (top right) was released on R100,000 bail but was re-arrested for breaching a bail condition. Sindisile Manqele (bottom right) was released on R10,000 bail in connection with the murder of her boyfriend Nkululelo "Flabba" Habedi. Paralympian Oscar Pistorius (bottom centre) was released on R1-million bail, of which R100,000 was paid in cash, the remainder of which was guaranteed. Acquitted British businessman Shrien Dewani (bottom left) was awarded £250,000 bail in a British court prior to being extradicted to South Africa in connection with his wife&39;s murder.  PHOTO: Various / eNCA / Erin Bates 

How bail is determined

A judge determines bail taking into consideration numerous factors, including the nature of the crime, and the interests of justice.

Lawyer Ulrich Roux told that the onus of showing why bail should be granted in a case like Panayiotou&39;s is "very difficult" to prove.

With a schedule six offence, such as pre-meditated murder, the accused must motivate for bail by showing there are exceptional circumstances for their release pending trial.

"The onus is on the applicant to show exceptional circumstances, which permit his release on bail," said Roux.

Roux, one of the directors at law firm BDK Attorneys, explained that bail amounts were determined by magistrates and were ultimately reimbursed, regardness of a trial outcome.

"The purpose of bail is to ensure a person attends trial," he said. "It isn&39;t standardised. Each case has its own very unique facts."

For a suspect like Panayiotou to obtain bail, he would have needed to prove to the court that he was not a flight risk, that he would not interfere with the case by, for instance, contacting witnesses, and that he would not commit further crimes.

Here is a special report, considering other bail applications -- some granted, others denied -- in high profile spousal and intimate partner murder cases.

Christopher Panayiotou - denied R50,000 bail

Police arrested Panayiotou on Friday, 30 April 2015 in connection with the kidnapping and murder of his wife, schoolteacher Jayde.

She went missing from outside her Port Elizabeth home on the morning of Tuesday, 21 April. The following day her body was found dumped in vacant land in KwaNobuhle, outside Uitenhage.

According to an investigating officer’s testimony in court last month, she was shot twice in the back and once in the head.

Investigating officer Rhynhardt "Kanna" Swanepoel testified that the teacher endured blunt trauma to the head before she was bundled into the back of a car and abducted.

Swanepoel submitted a 20-page affidavit in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, 21 May. State lawyers used the document to oppose bail for Panayiotou.



Panayiotou’s laywer, Terry Price, told the court that Panayiotou, a businessman with shares in a supermarket and a cocktail bar in the Eastern Cape city, would pay bail himself, if granted.

In an earlier court appearance, Panayiotou argued he should be granted bail because Oscar Pistorius had been granted bail.

The Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court heard Price read Panayiotou’s affidavit on Thursday, 14 May.

“I believe in my innocence. In Oscar Pistorius’ case, state also said it had strong case. And Oscar still got bail,” Price read out loud.

Rameez Patel - granted R250,000 bail

Days prior to Panayiotou being denied bail, another murder-accused husband in a separate case was granted bail in the North West.

A magistrate granted Rameez Patel bail on Tuesday, 2 June.

ABOVE: Rameez Patel appeared in the Polokwane Magistrate&39;s court on May 5, 2015. PHOTO: Gallo Images / Beeld / Marietie Louw-Carstens

Magistrate Mohammed Sheik granted Patel R250,000 bail after hearing arguments from the State and Patel’s lawyer, Tumi Mokwena.

Patel’s wife Fatima was severely beaten, shot and killed at the couple&39;s rented apartment in Nirvana, Polokwane, on Friday, 10 April.

Forensic evidence showed an assailant used a blunt object to attack her.

Rameez was arrested six days later. He vehemently denied he was involved in the murder and claimed a business competitor might be behind his wife’s killing.

Sindisiwe Maqele - granted R10,000 bail

Swatta Kamp musician Nkululeko Habedi, popularly known as Flabba, died after a domestic dispute at a relative’s home in Alexandra.

He died on Monday, 9 March. The 38-year-old married man’s girlfriend, Sindisiwe Manqele, appeared in court a week later.

ABOVE: Lawyer Amanda Vilakazi (left) speaks to murder accused Sindisile Precious Manqele (right) in the Alexandra Magistrate&39;s Court on Monday, 16 March 2015. A judge granted Manqele R10,000 bail the same day. PHOTO: eNCA / Erin Bates

She pleaded self-defense during her bail application, and her lawyer listed several injuries Manqele claims were sustained during a fight with Habedi.

"I had been brutally attacked by the deceased on the day," said Manqele in her statement, read out by her lawyer.

Magistrate Gideon Schnetler granted Maqele R10,000 bail on Monday, 16 March. Maqlele was then released to an unknown location.

Schnetler ruled the accused should report to a local police station twice weekly and could not leave Gauteng without notifying the investigating officer.

The murder trial is set down for Tuesday, 18 August.

Oscar Pistorius - granted R1-million bail

In the Oscar Pistorius trial for the fatal shooting of law graduate and model Reeva Steenkamp, the world-renowned paralympian was granted bail of R1-million.

His bail hearing began on Tuesday, 19 February 2013 and concluded four days later.

Magistrate Desmond Nair ruled on the matter in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court and detailed strict conditions for the athlete&39;s release pending trial.

As Philip de Wet reported for the Mail & Guardian, Nair insisted Pistorius pay R100,000 of his bail fee in cash and guarantee an additional R900,000.

"There is no way that the magistrate could have found Oscar was a flight risk," said Roux. "That was plain to see."

Pistorius&39;s bail conditions stipulated he had to hand over his firearms, abstain from consuming alcohol or drugs, and regularly report to a police station.

During the later murder trial, Pistorius was sentenced to a prison term for culpable homicide.

Judge Thokozile Masipa cleared him of murder, and Pistorius was released on bail again between Masipa&39;s ruling and sentencing. He is currently in prison.

ABOVE: Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius with his family, including uncle Arnold Pistorius, before he was taken down to the holding cells on 21 October, 2014. The athlete was sentenced to five years imprisonment for culpable homicide for his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp&39;s death. PHOTO: EPA / Herman Verwey / Pool

Shrien Dewani - granted £250,000 bail 

British businessman Shrien Dewani and his wife, electrical engineer Anni, travelled to South Africa for their honeymoon in November 2009.

The couple were held up in an apparent hijacking in Gugulethu and newlywed Anni was shot and killed. 

Husband Shrien survived the event, returned to the United Kingdom and was arrested  on Wednesday, 8 December 2010, two days after he returned home.

ABOVE: In October 2010, businessman Shrien Dewani and electrical engineer Anni Hindocha were married in a lavish ceremony attended by 500 guests in Mumbai, India The following month the newlyweds travelled to South Africa for their honeymoon. PHOTO: Supplied

After his arrest, a judge at City of Westminster Magistrates Court granted Dewani bail of £250,000 and imposed bail conditions including electronic tagging and a curfew.

The South African government appealed the granting of bail, but failed.

Lawyers for the State argued there was "a very powerful case against Dewani" after stating CCTV footage showed him handing money to a taxi driver, Zola Tongo, who later testified that he hired hitmen on Dewani&39;s behalf to kill Anni.

After a protracted extradition process lasting around eight months, Dewani stood trial in South Africa last year. Judge Jeanette Traverso ruled Dewani was not guilty on Monday, 8 December 2014.

He returned to Britain. After his acquittal, Anni&39;s sister Ami Demborg spoke of her family&39;s disappointment at the outcome.

Thandi Maqubela - granted R100,000 bail, later re-arrested

Thandi Maqubela was arrested on Tuesday, 25 March 2010 in connection with her husband Patrick’s murder.

Acting Cape High Court judge Patrick Maqubela was murdered at his Banty Bay apartment.  On Sunday, 7 June 2009, his body was found wrapped in a sheet with a bloodied pillow covering his face.

Weeks after Thandi Maqubela’s arrest in 2010, she was released on R100,000 bail. However, in 2011, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirmed the widow was re-arrested.

ABOVE: Convicted killer Thandi Maqubela is now serving her prison sentence for her husband&39;s murder. PHOTO: Gallo Images / The Times / Shelley Christians

As the City Press reported, Maqubela had flouted one of her bail conditions by moving from her Sandton address. She was taken to a medical facility after re-arrest.

Judge John Murphy of the Western Cape High Court sentenced the widow to an effective 18 years in prison on Tuesday, 31 March 2015.

Najwa Petersen - repeatedly applied for bail, denied

Cape Town musician and composer Taliep Petersen was murdered on Saturday, 16 December 2006.

The Olivier award-winning theatre personality was shot at his Athlone home

The following year, on 18 June, his widow Najwa was arrested in connection the murder.

Najwa Petersen’s laywers made at least two attempts to secure bail for the widow, one in 2007 and another in 2008. Both were unsuccessful.

Judge Siraj Desai sentenced her to 28 years in prison on Thursday, 19 February 2009.

Paid back the money

Whatever the amount paid for bail, the court will reimburse the fee after the law takes its course.

As Roux explained, "Regardless of whether you are convicted or acquitted, the person who paid bail gets the money back at the finalisation of the matter."

In terms of payment, bail money was typically paid in cash, or bank guaranteed cheque from a law firm&39;s trust, which was handed to the court&39;s clerk.

Roux told he had experience of cases similar to those above, and some suspects had been released on bail of R1,000 after their arrest in connection with their spouse or partner&39;s murder. 

"It&39;s the magistrate who decides on the amount. It depends on the person&39;s affordability and income," he said. 

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