No Skype in Cwele case, court rules

2010-12-13 14:41

The Pietermaritzburg High Court today ruled against the State’s application to have a witness testify from Brazil via Skype, an internet webcam service.

“The use of Skype is refused. The reasons will be given later,” Judge Piet Koene said.

The State made an application to have convicted drug mule Tessa Beetge testify via Skype from a jail in Sao Paulo, where she is currently serving an eight-year jail sentence.

She is a crucial State witness in the drug trafficking case against Sheryl Cwele, the wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele.

Cwele’s advocate Mvuseni Ngubane said using Skype would make it difficult to conduct a cross-examination. He said the State should have explored other ways of getting Beetge’s testimony.

“It is clear that the State has not looked at other ways. There are so many mechanisms that could have been explored,” he said.

These included bringing her to South Africa, or sending people to Brazil to attend a formal court hearing.

Ngubane said the State had not tried to contact the Brazilian or South African embassies to help facilitate the process. It was important for Beetge to be present during the trial so Ngubane could see her behaviour and reactions during questioning.

He said he had many exhibits which he would like to put to Beetge during cross examination. Ngubane also wanted to use clips from the interview Beetge conducted with the SABC’s Special Assignment programme.

Earlier today, Koene said he intended approaching the director of public prosecutions to see whether a criminal case could be brought against the SABC for airing the interview.

Special Assignment earlier this year screened an interview with Beetge from jail.

Koene said he had not seen the broadcast as he was in hospital under sedation at the time.

“I did not see it. I am still looking into it. I intend to approach the DDP (director of public prosecutions) to investigate whether criminal offence can be instituted against the SABC,” he said.

Beetge was arrested after 10kg of cocaine was found in her luggage in Brazil in 2008.

Cwele and Nigerian national Frank Nabolisa allegedly conspired to recruit Beetge and Charmaine Moss as drug mules.

In the interview, Beetge made several allegations against Cwele, claiming Cwele had offered her a job via sms. Beetge said Cwele should be the one having sleepless nights, not her.

“My only mistake was trusting her... Sheryl Cwele should be the one paying the price. She must face consequences for her actions,” Beetge said in the SABC 3 show.

The trial continues.

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