Magistrate wants proof of jurisdiction

2014-02-04 00:00

The case against the man charged with intimidating President Jacob Zuma’s second wife could end abruptly tomorrow if the prosecution fails to convince a Camperdown magistrate that he has jurisdiction to hear the matter.

Magistrate Thys Taljaard warned the State that if it cannot prove that the alleged crime was committed in the Camperdown area, he will strike the case off the roll tomorrow.

Taljaard also agreed to a defence request to remand the accused Steven Masunga (31) — a Tanzanian national according to the charge sheet — back to the police cells at Camperdown pending his bail hearing.

The State had dismissed suggestions that Masunga’s life could be at risk or that his health would be compromised, if he was transferred to New Prison in Pietermaritzburg.

The defence said police who’d arrested Masunga “promised” that because many people were interested in the “high profile” case and its political flavour, it was safer for him in the police cells.

His stand-in legal aid lawyer, Mdu Thuketana, also said as an asthmatic who had just come out of hospital, the smoke in prison would jeopardise his precarious health.

“So New Prison is a smoking prison?” asked Taljaard, to which Thuketana replied, “Anything goes.”

Masunga, who lives in Durban, faces an allegation that he “intimidated” Nompumelelo Primrose Zuma (also known as MaNtuli) via cellphone in order to get her to arrange a “business meeting” with the president.

The charge sheet states the alleged crime was committed on January 15 this year within the jurisdiction of Camperdown.

However, when challenged by the defence and later pressed by the magistrate to explain exactly where the alleged offence was committed, the prosecutor, Ndoda January said the issue was “complex”.

He said this was because the alleged crime was not committed face-to-face but via mobile cellphone contact “anywhere between here (Camperdown) and Nkandla”.

Ndoda said police still have to determine which relevant cellphone tower the call was received from.

“To state categorically that he (Masunga) was within Camperdown … that still has to be established,” said Ndoda, prompting Taljaard to warn that if this wasn’t resolved by the time Masunga’s bail hearing returns to court tomorrow, he will strike the case off the roll.

Ndoda also urged the court to accept that because the case would eventually be tried in the regional court, which has provincial jurisdiction, it didn’t really matter where the crime was committed. He also told the court that more charges are likely to be added to the charge sheet in future, including a charge of crimen injuria, but he did not elaborate on the details.

The case was adjourned until tomorrow because Masunga’s legal aid attorney, Lekoa Lekoko, was not available.

KZN’s head of detective services, Brigadier Clifford Marion, attended the hearing, underlining its importance. Meanwhile, despite his leg irons, the trendily dressed Masunga appeared relaxed and smiling as he was escorted by police through the throng of journalists and camera­people at court yesterday.

A medical certificate attached to the State’s charge sheet noting that Masunga was admitted to Northdale Hospital on January 26, also recorded that he uses an alias “Steven John Olonga”.

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