The unavailability of transcripts of court proceedings in Mpumalanga’s capital city has worried complainants.
Two cases that were heard in the Nelspruit magistrate’s court and the Nelspruit circuit of the High Court last week ended up being postponed due to the unavailability of the transcripts.
On Friday, the corruption case against Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza’s former spokesman Mabutho Sithole was postponed due to transcripts that were unavailable.
The Nelspruit magistrate’s court was expected to decide whether Sithole should be tried on allegations that he offered City Press journalist Sizwe sama Yende R5 000 in an attempt to prevent him from publishing a story about tender corruption involving R230 million at the provincial department of agriculture.
“The decision on the corruption charges will be made when the court finds the transcript that has been requested. However, it’s a pity that the transcript, which was said to be available, decided to walk,” said presiding magistrate Erwin Sithole.
Sithole has not been asked to plead to charges of corruption and he is out on R6 000 bail.
The case was postponed to October 25 for the state to obtain the transcripts of the case.
On Monday, Yende told African Eye News Service that the people who are responsible for keeping the transcripts must be held accountable to avoid sinister motives being suspected.
“The court should show it’s not party to corruption and deal with the individual who is entrusted with the safekeeping of records,” said Yende. “It’s rare that court records could just vanish. I just hope this is not another episode of cover-up in Mpumalanga province. It doesn’t make sense that a whole case can be delayed for months because there’s no transcript.”
On August 27, the court was forced to postpone the trial against Yegen Naidoo, 42, after the state could not produce the recordings of the 2010 court proceedings in which Naidoo was implicated in a double murder.
Naidoo is accused of leading a Durban-based gang called Bad Company and ordering a hit on Patricia Pillay, 53, and her granddaughter Yetska, 9. The two victims died in a hand grenade attack at their home in Valencia, Mbombela, on December 23 2006.
Naidoo’s co-accused – Zamuk Amod Khan and Mohamed Ismail Khan, 40 – testified that they had acted on Naidoo’s instructions.
Both Khans – who testified that they were paid a combined total of R7 000 and promised additional money – are already serving life imprisonment sentences and an additional 20 years each for the hand grenade attack.
They claimed the attack was carried out because the Pillays were suspected of harbouring Zamuk Khan’s girlfriend and child who had run away from him. The court heard that the Pillays did not know the woman and child, however.
Naidoo has not yet been asked to plead to two counts of murder and possession of explosives.
His trial was postponed to April 22 2013 for the state to obtain the recordings of the 2010 court proceedings and also address allegations that a Durban cop forced one of the Khans to implicate Naidoo in the matter.
On Monday, Patricia’s daughter Taryn Pillay, said the postponement of Naidoo’s trial shocked her family.
“I can’t even talk about this matter. My head is still spinning since the case was postponed,” she told AENS.
Before granting postponement on August 27, the presiding judge gave Taryn a chance to speak.
“We want justice to be done, but postponing the matter to 2013 means we have to pass another Christmas with the matter not being finalised. Our mother was killed just two days before Christmas. This is sad for us,” Taryn told the court.
On Monday, Nelspruit magistrate court manager Mpumi Ndlovu told AENS that the court was now in possession of the transcripts for Sithole’s case.
“On record now, the transcripts on the Sithole case are available and the magistrate has them now. Also, it should be noted that the case was not only postponed because of the transcripts, but also because the prosecutor who was dealing with the case was out of the country that day and they made arrangements with the court to postpone it. I don’t know what happened on Friday (that led to) the disappearing of the transcripts from the clerks of the court,” said Ndlovu.
Ndlovu could not comment on the case against Naidoo because the transcripts for the case are kept at the High Court.
“The High Court keeps its own information, which we do not have in our records,” she said.