More delays in Hlophe son's case
Cape Town - Bachelor of Commerce student Thuthuke Hlophe's need to "take stock" on Wednesday caused the postponement of his trial on fraud and theft charges to June.
After several delays, two caused by the withdrawal of two different magistrates from the case, Hlophe's trial was to have started in the Bellville Regional Court in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Instead, magistrate Kenny Pieterse postponed proceedings to June 25.
Hlophe, son of Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe, faces six counts of fraud, three of theft, three of uttering (or presenting) forged documents, one of defeating the ends of justice and one violation of the Identification Act.
On Wednesday, his lawyer Thembalihle Sidaki told the court much had happened since Monday, when Hlophe was to have gone on trial before magistrate Susan Smith.
He said Hlophe needed time to "take stock of what had happened".
Smith recused herself from the trial on Monday after dismissing defence allegations that prosecutor Ezmarelda Johnson was pursuing the charges maliciously.
Because the defence allegations had caused her to delve into the merits of the case, she could no longer preside, Smith said.
Sidaki said the case had a history, and Hlophe needed to take stock of the developments involving Smith.
Sidaki said he had agreed with the prosecution to a postponement to April 16, when the case would be scheduled for trial on June 25.
Johnson said the case had been on the roll since 2009, and that all the delays had been occasioned by the defence team. Sidaki denied this. He said Hlophe had initially pleaded guilty to fewer charges in plea-bargain proceedings before magistrate Johann Vermaak, who had since retired.
The case was then taken to the Western Cape High Court for the convictions to be set aside, after the defence had realised Hlophe had incorrectly pleaded guilty.
However, the High Court was unable to review the matter due to the failure of the court administration to forward crucial documents to the judge.
Sidaki said the original prosecutor, Sylvan Africa, had since resigned and the case re-allocated to Johnson, causing a further delay.
The recusal of two magistrates, firstly Specialised Commercial Crime Magistrate Amrith Chabillal, and then Smith, had caused further delays, Sidaki said.
Johnson said all the prosecution witnesses were present in court, ready to testify, and the State was ready to proceed.
Pieterse said the case would only be scheduled for trial in June if, on April 16, the case was in fact ready for trial.