Accused officers denied more time on case

2015-05-05 09:58

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A DURBAN magistrate presiding over a five-year-old case where five police officers are accused of extorting money from foreign nationals, has refused to postpone it again.

Magistrate Simphiwe Hlophe refused to grant two of the accused, Thabisani Dladla and Jabulani Ngcobo, more time to raise funds to find an attorney and ordered their trial start today, with or without legal representation.

Both accused have previously refused legal aid, stating they want their own attorney.

The five former dog unit policemen from Durban Central including Dladla and Ngcobo are Solomon Shozi, Simphiwe Nyawose and Sizwe Innocent Ntetha. They are all facing five counts of extortion, three of theft and three of assault. The accused allegedly planted drugs or stolen merchandise in the homes of the foreign nationals, many of them Nigerian, and then demanded they pay bribes varying in amounts from covering their rent to paying their DStv bills.

“This case has been on the roll for five years with the trial originally set to begin in February 2013. The first witness is still under oath,” said Hlophe.

The trial was then repeatedly delayed until June 2014 while the accused awaited the outcome of a challenge by businessman Gaston Savoi on the constitutionality of certain sections of South African criminal law dealing with racketeering.

Savoi, several senior KwaZulu-Natal government officials and senior politicians in a case known as the “Amigos” trial were facing charges of money laundering, racketeering and fraud related to contracts awarded to Intaka Holdings — owned by Savoi — for the supply of water purification and oxygen plants to the KZN departments of Local Government and Health.

“The trial was expected to resume in September for three weeks. The witnesses had made themselves available and lawyers had made time on their schedule but it was delayed because two accused had no representation.”

Hlophe said if Dladla and Ngcobo could not find a lawyer in eight months there was little chance of them finding one now.

“If this application to postpone again is granted a further three weeks will be lost. The other accused will suffer prejudice. There has been ample time for two of the accused.”

Addressing them directly, Hlophe said he was aware the accused were “facing serious charges” but that for their current situation of no representation they could “only blame yourselves”.

“Their application is refused and this trial will proceed tomorrow,” said Hlophe

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