Prison official grilled over her failure to appear in court

2012-07-23 00:00

A SENIOR Correctional Services official, Nompumelelo Radebe, was grilled by the high court in Pietermaritzburg on Friday for allegedly defying a judge’s order to appear in court last week.

Radebe is facing a contempt of court inquiry after a warrant for her arrest was issued over her failure to attend court last Thursday in response to an order by Judge Themba Sishi.

Radebe, a divisional head of case management administration at Pietermaritzburg’s New Prison, told the judge on Friday that she’d attended a “wellness day” held by the department last Thursday and was unaware she had to be at court.

She denied a suggestion by state advocate Dorian Paver that when she was told she had to go to court, she’d told a colleague the previous day that she was not going because she had not received a subpoena.

She further denied that her superior, Yogendran Govender — who undertook to give her the message to go to court — in fact did so.

However, she was later contradicted by another witness, prison warder Johan Greyling.

Greyling told Judge Sishi he’d been seated in an office last Wednesday afternoon when he heard Govender tell Radebe that she had to go to court the next day. Radebe had replied that she “has got nothing in black and white so she won’t go,” he said.

Greyling said Govender was standing in the doorway at the time. He could not see Radebe when she spoke, but he saw her walking away in the passage immediately afterwards.

Radebe was one of several police and Correctional Services officials who were called to testify last week as part of an ongoing inquiry by Judge Sishi into why prisoners from New Prison were brought to court late.

The judge told the head of the prison, Cornelius Abersalie, that on four consecutive days the court could only start after 11 am, instead of 10 am, because the prisoners had not arrived.

Abersalie said he had not been aware of the problem until he telephoned while off-duty and was informed about the inquiry that had been launched into why prisoners were not there on time on July 17.

He said all the officials knew that they had to take responsibility to get the prisoners to court.

“I can give the court an assurance that it is not going to happen again,” he said in his evidence.

The inquiry into the contempt of court charge facing Radebe, as well as that into the lateness of the prisoners, was suspended until the resumption of the trial itself, which was adjourned provisionally until November 26 at Pongola.

Four accused in the case, Innocent Ncanana, an ex-policeman, Xolani Zungu, Sifiso Ncube and Thokozani Dlamini face 18 counts, including robbery, murder, attempted murder and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. The charges arise from a robbery outside the Hluhluwe First National Bank during which bank manager Thembinkosi Mbatha was shot dead and another woman was injured on May 31,2011.

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