Top cop seeks discharge before defence case

2013-11-27 00:00

POLICE Lieutenant-General Bethuel Zuma hopes to be cleared of all charges arising from his drunk driving case next week.

This will depend on the decision of Pietermaritzburg magistrate Reard Abrahams, who was yesterday urged by Zuma’s attorney, Sergie Brimiah, to discharge the policeman without Zuma having to testify in his defence.

Abrahams said that in light of the fact that Brimiah had called into question the credibility of state witnesses and pointed out a number of alleged contradictions in their testimony, he needed time to read the evidence and satisfy himself properly about the matter before he gives a ruling. He adjourned the case until next Tuesday for a ruling.

Brimiah yesterday submitted that a “litany of discrepancies” existed between the versions of the various state witnesses, that they were “evasive” and that their evidence cannot be relied on to convict Zuma. He also argued that Zuma cannot be faulted for not stopping at a roadblock on Alexandra Road when he was flagged down by traffic officer Kerwin Johansen on the night of December 19, 2008, because he could have thought Johansen was a “bogus policeman”.

Brimiah said further the drunk driving charge against Zuma “cannot stick” because there is no evidence that Zuma was “zig-zagging” or in any way wasn’t in control of his vehicle that night.

He said evidence that a breathalyser test had shown that Zuma was over the legal limit was not reliable because it wasn’t proved that the equipment complied with all legal requirements.

Zuma denies that he fled from the traffic officials at the scene when they tried to handcuff him and that he deliberately took cover in a house in Abbott Road in Pelham until time had run out to do blood and other tests to check his blood alcohol level.

Opposing the application, state prosecutor Kwaziwenkosi Zimu said the legal test to be applied before a court could discharge an accused at this stage of the trial, was to decide if he could reasonably be convicted on the state’s evidence.

He submitted in this case that Zuma can be.

Zimu said it wasn’t disputed that Zuma was directed to stop at the roadblock that night by traffic officers in full uniform and that he didn’t do so.

They then pursued him in a marked traffic vehicle with blue lights and a siren, to where he was confronted about five kilometres away.

According to traffic officer Johansen, after fleeing into the house at Abbott Road, Zuma had stayed inside for approximately an hour and a half, after which it was too late to do blood and other tests to check his blood alcohol level.

Zimu said the traffic officers at the scene had decided to arrest Zuma because a breathalyser test showed his breath alcohol content was above the legal limit, and because they smelt alcohol on him.

He said the court should expect some contradictions in the evidence of state witnesses who were testifying five years after the incident, and said the witnesses who gave evidence were truthful.

Zuma is charged with drunk driving, escaping from custody, defeating the administration of justice and failing to comply with the legal instruction of a traffic officer.

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