Mpisane supporters mob journo

2012-06-14 00:00

PRESS photographer Terry Haywood was besieged by angry supporters of Durban millionaire Shauwn Mpisane yesterday when he snapped a picture of her sitting in court.

Haywood was immediately surrounded and manhandled out of the Durban Regional Court by a crowd of men, even though he had permission to take pictures from magistrate Blessing Msani.

Other journalists jumped to the aid of the Independent Newspapers photographer and tried to shield Haywood from the baying crowd. Court orderlies and both legal teams looked on as tensions rose in and outside court Z.

The incensed mob refused to accept that permission had been granted and tried to block Haywood from entering the court again, grabbing at him and his camera. Eventually two policemen intervened and marched everyone through the court and into a corridor, where the heated exchanges continued.

Housing contractor Mpisane is facing 119 counts, all but one for fraud. She was sitting next to one of her legal representatives before the start of court, watching the unfolding drama.

A woman in the gallery, said to be her sister, had tried to shield her from Haywood’s lens and ended up getting in the only picture he took. Mpisane’s husband Sbu also became animated, shouting “No cameras, no cameras.”

Eventually, Haywood was able to flee but a slanging match continued inside, where Mpisane — wearing soaring blue stilettos and wearing sunglasses — had taken her seat in the dock. Behind her the woman identified as her sister traded words with Sapa journalist Joe Stolley, telling him: “Let’s just behave ourselves. Can we be civil?”

To which Stolley responded: “Yes, but tell that to your henchmen.”

The retort irked the woman. “You can’t call them henchmen.” Stolley, who had also been jostled in the melee, responded: “Yes I can, they bounced me.”

Another supporter then confronted Stolley telling him, “Don’t shout at her.”

The final word went to Stolley seconds before the magistrate walked in. “You can’t tell me what to do.”

With order restored, Msani delivered his ruling on an application by Mpisane’s defence team requesting more information following a revised set of charges filed by the state more than two weeks ago.

Msani granted the order, saying it was in the interests of justice that Mpisane was given all available information to prepare her defence.

He criticised prosecutor Meera Naidu for withholding the documents and answers, saying Mpisane had a right to know what role she was accused of playing in the alleged crimes.“If the state held this information, it would suffer no prejudice if it was furnished,” he said.

Naidu asked for an adjournment until tomorrow morning, prompting argument from Msani about further delays to the trial, which had been set down for the week and is yet to start.

He agreed to the adjournment and jokingly referred to the fact Mpisane had hired two advocates, including Wim Trengove SC. “Next time I’ll be told the accused has no more money for her defence,” earning solemn nods from Mpisane and her supporters, all draped in designer clothes and accessories.

Mpisane is accused of filing false financial statements and doctoring invoices to escape a R4,7 million tax bill for the 2008 financial year. She also allegedly submitted false VAT returns by under-declaring a similar amount of R4,75 million in 2010.

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