Top cop tells his side

2013-12-04 00:00

MAJOR-GENERAL Bethuel Zuma has told a court that he had thought a traffic police roadblock might be “bogus” and that is why he did not stop in December 2008.

Zuma was briefly appointed Gauteng police commissioner earlier this year but his appointment was withdrawn hours later when his pending Pietermaritzburg case was revealed.

Giving evidence yesterday before Pietermaritzburg magistrate Reard Abrahams, Zuma admitted he ignored signals by traffic inspector Kerwin Johansen, who tried to flag his vehicle down at around midnight on December 19, 2008.

He said Johansen “appeared out of nowhere from under trees” waving a flashlight and he thought he might be a bogus cop and a criminal.

“There were no cones and no police signs anywhere,” he said.

Zuma said he had been afraid that he could be shot at as he drove away from the man.

Zuma said when he later argued with Johansen about this point and told him he’d thought they could be criminals, Johansen replied that he would show him “who is the criminal between him and me”.

Zuma testified that he didn’t see Johansen and his colleague, Karen Bishop, chasing after him with blue lights and a siren after he drove through the roadblock.

He also categorically denied that he later fled from their custody and locked himself in a house in Abbott Road, Pelham.

Zuma said he drove to Abbott Road at a normal speed, drove into the yard through the open gates and parked his car.

He and his wife, and his nine-year-old daughter then went inside and “settled in the house”.

He then telephoned a friend, a Brigadier Shelembe, to “tell him that there are people conducting an operation in an awkward area where there are no visible police signs and that they could be criminals,” he said.

At some point, he said he came out of the house when he heard a “commotion on the verandah”, and he found police and traffic officers there.

He frequently clashed with state prosecutor Kwaziwenkosi Zimu during cross examination when asked to explain his evidence or his actions.

When Zimu suggested to him that there had been a “big scene” outside the house in Abbott Road with several vehicles and people there, and that it was strange that he didn’t bother to come out to investigate, Zuma said he disagreed.

“Someone might think it’s a big scene and someone else may not … I didn’t see it,” he said.

Zuma also said he didn’t hear any sirens that night.

Zuma was earlier yesterday acquitted on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as a charge that he had defeated the administration of justice by allegedly locking himself away until the time had passed when his blood could legally be tested for alcohol.

Abrahams said there was no evidence by state witnesses that proved Zuma was under the influence of liquor.

Evidence by traffic officer Johansen and by Bishop to the effect that they smelt alcohol on his breath was not sufficient to convict him, he said.

As far as the charge of defeating the administration of justice was concerned, Abrahams ruled that Zuma was wrongly charged.

Abrahams found, however, that Zuma was required to defend the remaining two charges, of escaping from custody and failing to obey the lawful instructions of a traffic officer.

Closing arguments are due to be presented on December 10.

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