Magistrate’s remark ‘worries’ NPA

2010-11-10 12:44

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has expressed concern over possible “political” remarks made by the Kimberley magistrate today in his bail judgment of Northern Cape ANC leader Johan Block.

It was “worrying” that Magistrate Lance Roach’s comments bordered on the “political”, NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said.

“Where he says the [state’s] move to oppose bail could either be a political agenda or show of power, which is equally worrying and disturbing.” Mhaga said this was not the case.

Block and his co-accused in the matter, businessman Gaston Savoi, were each granted conditional bail of R100 000.

Delivering judgment, Roach said it was not understandable why the state changed its mind and decided to oppose Block’s bail. It could only be speculated that there was either a “political agenda” or “show of force” behind the decision.

Mhaga said the NPA would study the judgment and prepare accordingly, and expressed hope that the two men would stick to their bail conditions.

Speaking to about 200 supporters outside the court after the ruling, Block proclaimed his innocence and told the crowd he would abide by the court’s decision. He denied receiving special police treatment while in custody.

“I was told by police to bring a mattress and blanket because they do not have any.”

Block said he also did not live on takeaways, but ate food prepared at home for him.

The ANC leader, who was also the Northern Cape MEC for finance, economic development and tourism, also referred to the “show of force” statement made in court.

“There is no way I would run from this case. I’m innocent and will prove it in court.”

Block and Savoi’s bail conditions included them not being allowed to change their residential addresses without the permission of investigators and the NPA.

They were not allowed to contact State witnesses directly or indirectly. Both men further had to attend court proceedings until the matter was finalised. If they failed to appear in court, they would be arrested.

Block, Savoi and seven others are charged with tender fraud estimated at R112 million.

The allegations against them relate to the purchase of water purification equipment for the Kimberley Hospital from company Intaka Holdings, which is owned by Savoi, at inflated prices in 2005 and 2006.

The case was postponed to March 18, 2011 for further investigation.

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