Shauwn’s day of orange power

2012-11-03 00:00

ROUND one undoubtedly belonged to Durban socialite Shauwn Mpisane yesterday.

The low-cost housing mogul had a morning as glorious as her orange Fedora hat when she won her bid to stop the state causing further delays in her tax fraud trial.

Her victory in the Durban Regional Court was all the sweeter for the magistrate’s refusal to join additional charges to the existing case which comprises 119 counts against her and her company Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport.

At the same time, prosecutors face a weekend of pondering a way out of the corner they have painted themselves into.

Senior prosecutor Meera Naidu, in particular, received a tongue lashing from magistrate Blessing Msane for the tactics she has used.

“We have a situation where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing,” Msane commented at one point.

He found the “unreasonable delays” were the fault of the state, which prejudiced Mpisane by chopping and changing the charges levelled against her.

This had not only hampered her ability to prepare for trial, but had cost her a fortune in employing two advocates, one of them senior counsel Wim Trengove.

Mpisane has appeared in various courts 19 times since charges were brought against her last year.

She was also arrested two weeks ago and appeared in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on two more counts which the state unsuccessfully applied to join to the current trial.

It was these two charges which led Msane to question Naidu’s legal acumen because of her insistence on referring to the allegations as fact in a previous rebuttal to the defence.

“That is not the way legal people speak,” said Msane.

From that point the outlook for Naidu and the state deteriorated quickly when defence advocate Jimmy Howse told the court they would be objecting to the admissibility of some evidence.

He said one batch of charges relied on the evidence of invoices which were protected under confidentiality regulations in the Income Tax Act, meaning they could not be used, even in court.

Evidence for the other charges was equally inadmissible under similar statutes, argued Howse.

The revelations by Howse seemed to catch Naidu off guard and she gingerly addressed Msane and asked for another adjournment, despite his order to the contrary moments before.

An incredulous Msane shot back: “If you are not ready to lead evidence on Monday, I will close your case for you.”

Like a boxer punch-drunk against the ropes, the state was pounded by Msane throughout his ruling.

He said media reports harping on the constant delays placed the administration of justice in a poor light, and could not be tolerated.

“There must come a time when that must stop — and that time is now.”

The matter resumes on Monday.

• brett.horner@witness.co.za

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