Setback for child smuggling case

2013-04-16 22:35

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Nelspruit - A Nelspruit Regional Court magistrate, a prosecutor and a defence lawyer have withdrawn from a child smuggling case that has been running for the past 16 months.

A Sapa correspondent reported that magistrate Andre Geldenhuys, prosecutor Elise du Plessis and Legal Aid defence lawyer MC Mabunda pulled out on Tuesday.

The court was expected to hear the sentencing of self-confessed Mozambican child smuggler, Eliza Zefaro Gwambe, 41, on Tuesday.

"The case was supposed to be the finalised today [Tuesday] but due to three statements brought in front of me in the morning, which were made by Gwambe to Mabunda, Nicro representatives and the State social worker, I am withdrawing myself and colleagues from the case," Geldenhuys said.

Nicro is the SA National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders.

Geldenhuys ruled the case should start afresh and new court officials be appointed to run the case.

"After reading the report that was made by Gwambe on 8 March where she confessed... that she is guilty of child smuggling, where she smuggled two kids from Mozambique into South Africa, [I found] several contradictions...," he said.

Geldenhuys told the court Gwambe, who initially confessed to being a child smuggler, was denying everything she said on record.

"In her recent statement she stated that she was forced by Mabunda to sign a document which she didn't understand," he said.

"She contradicted herself in three statements today and we don't have a choice but to withdraw ourselves from the case."

Gwambe, who has been in custody since December 2011, broke into tears when the court interpreter told her the case would start afresh. She asked to address the court, but the magistrate turned down her request.

The case was postponed to Friday for new court officials to be appointed.

Read more on:    mbombela  |  child abuse

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