Zuma’s slate wiped clean

2014-01-29 00:00

TOP Gauteng police officer Major-General Bethuel Zuma is off the hook on all charges that he ran from a traffic police roadblock aimed at catching drunk drivers in 2008, and later escaped from his arresting officers.

“The outcome was good. I always knew that there was no case against me,” a beaming Zuma told the media after the case yesterday.

His attorney Sergie Brimiah said the truth had prevailed. “We believe in the justice system and my client has now been vindicated,” he said.

Zuma’s mother Priscilla, who regularly attended court to support her son, hugged him fiercely as she said; “God is amazing”, adding she was glad that the ordeal was over.

Zuma didn’t comment on whether he may again find himself in the running for the position of police commissioner of Gauteng from which he was immediately demoted when it was realised that he was still facing trial in Pietermaritzburg in this case.

“I have a job,” was all he said.

Earlier, Pietermaritzburg magistrate Reard Abrahams cleared Zuma of the last two remaining charges facing him, which were that he failed to obey the legal instruction of a traffic officer, and escaping from lawful custody.

Abrahams had already earlier in the case acquitted Zuma of driving under the influence of alcohol and of defeating the administration of justice for allegedly locking himself inside a house in Abbot Road, Pelham, so that traffic officials would not be able to test his blood for alcohol.

Yesterday, Abrahams accepted Zuma’s explanation that he’d believed the traffic officer manning a roadblock on Alexandra Road on the night of December 19, 2008, could have been a “bogus cop” and felt it was too dangerous to stop.

Abrahams said the RTI officer who waved his flashlight at Zuma in a bid to stop his Mercedes Vito van— Kerwin Johansen — had agreed with the defence under cross examination that Zuma might have thought the roadblock was bogus.

Further, the traffic officer’s own evidence was that they couldn’t keep up with Zuma’s car when they gave chase with their blue lights and siren, and it was possible he didn’t see them.

Finally, Abrahams also accepted the major-general’s “bare denial” that he’d been arrested outside the house in Abott Road that night by officers Johansen and Karen Bishop, and that he’d fled from their custody and jumped into the yard of the house before locking himself inside the house.

Abrahams said the evidence of the two RTI officers was full of contradictions. These were of such a nature that the court found had not proved its case.

The contraditions were:

• That Johansen testified that when they found Zuma’s car he was standing outside it, while Bishop said he was sitting in the vehicle;

• That Johansen said he asked Zuma why he didn’t stop at the roadblock, but Bishop didn’t mention this; and

• That Johansen alleged that Zuma initially refused to take a breathalyser test, but Bishop said he didn’t refuse.

Abrahams said Bishop also said she couldn’t remember if Zuma was told the results of the breathalyser that caused them to arrest him on suspicion of drunk driving.

He said in his view Bishop had seemed to be “under a lot of strain and pressure in court”, and her evidence was tailored to coincide with Johansen’s.

He said it was important for a police officer to explain what was happening procedurally when arresting a person. “They must be advised of their rights and the reason why they are being interrogated,” he said.

Under the circumstances he said the court could not say that Zuma was ever (formally) arrested, or that he fled from the custody of the traffic officers.

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