Cocaine dealer caught in a fix

2016-07-06 06:00
                                              PHOTO: fileLeon Govender.

PHOTO: fileLeon Govender.

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A CONVICTED Pietermaritzburg cocaine dealer is accused of being so desperate to delay his sentencing that he deliberately rammed into the presiding magistrate’s car earlier this month.

Leon Govender (45) of Northdale now faces the possibility of having his bail revoked on grounds of ­“interfering” with regional magistrate Bhekizitha Phoswa.

He also applied for the magistrate to recuse himself from the case.

Govender was once a Mountain Rise policeman who later worked at a clutch and brake company.

Although the exact details of the collision involving Phoswa and Govender were not revealed in court yesterday, sources said the magistrate had been driving a new Mercedes-Benz.

His car was allegedly “side swiped” by a car driven by Govender in ­Pietermaritz Street on June 3.

In an affidavit in support of his ­application for Phoswa to recuse ­himself from the case — which Phoswa granted yesterday — Govender said, “The magistrate was visibly upset with me and expressed extreme anger due to the fact that I had collided with his new vehicle”.

State advocate Yuri Gangai told Phoswa and another regional court magistrate, Linda Lewis, that Govender allegedly “deliberately collided with” Phoswa’s car to force him to recuse himself from the case.

This is the reason the state is now applying to revoke his bail on grounds that he had “abused the justice system” by interfering with a magistrate.

Lewis will preside over the ­application to cancel Govender’s bail next Friday, but Gangai said the state did not want to reveal in advance which magistrate will be asked to deal with Govender’s sentencing because he ­allegedly interfered with Phoswa ­before he could sentence him.

Govender and a co-accused, ­Brenton Frank (42), had pleaded guilty and were convicted in October last year before Phoswa to two counts each of dealing in small amounts of cocaine.

They were due to be sentenced by Phoswa on June 8, but before this could happen Govender crashed into Phoswa’s vehicle on 3 June, said Gangai.

Phoswa said he had not recognised Govender either at the accident scene, when they drove in convoy to the police station, or when they reported the ­accident at the police station.

Phoswa said he was “astounded” on the Monday following the accident (which happened on the previous ­Friday) to be told Govender wanted him to recuse himself due to the fact that Phoswa was “angry” with him over the collision and that he was afraid the magistrate would be biased towards him if he sentenced him.

Phoswa said judicial officers take an oath to uphold the law and the ­Constitution and to administer justice “without fear, favour or prejudice”.

There is a presumption in the favour of presiding officers that they will act impartially.

He said, however, in the ­circumstances he believed it was best for him to recuse himself for ­Govender’s sentence only.

He refused an application by defence advocate Brad Osborne to also recuse himself from sentencing Frank ­(Govender’s co-accused) because he said he did not have any involvement with Frank, who could therefore not be afraid he would show bias towards him.

Frank will now be sentenced on ­8 July .

Osborne said earlier that he ­understood the state believed ­Govender had “conspired” to deliberately crash into Phoswa’s car and that the “chief magistrate was warned in writing that this may well happen”.

“A week after that letter had been authored … this incident took place ­apparently,” said Osborne.

“We have not seen that letter,” said Osborne.

It was in light of this information that he believed Phoswa should recuse himself from sentencing either of the two men, he said.

Gangai did not confirm if in fact a letter existed that had pre-warned the chief magistrate about Govender’s alleged plan to crash into Phoswa’s car on purpose.

• In statements accompanying their guilty pleas last year, Govender and Frank admitted to selling cocaine on three different occasions last year to a person named “Jo” who turned out to be a police agent.

The amounts of cocaine involved in the various transactions added up to 10,9 grams, which was valued at R7 800.

The men said they knew they were committing a crime.

Govender now faces the possibility of having his bail revoked on grounds of ‘interfering’ with regional magistrate Bhekizitha Phoswa

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