Bar dead man’s evidence — lawyer

2013-04-25 00:00

THE trial of former uMgungundlovu councillors Lucky Moloi and Alpha Shelembe will be rendered unfair if the court allows a statement by deceased estate agent Neville Watts to be introduced as evidence in the case.

This was the submission their counsel, Simphiwe Moloi, made yesterday on behalf of the accused.

Moloi said the defence would be greatly prejudiced if evidence by Watts were to be introduced because it could not be tested by cross-examination.

“This is the only tool that the accused can use to determine what is the truth and what is lies,” he said.

Moloi submitted that the state wanted to introduce Watts’s testimony in order to “shore up” its case.

In particular, it wanted to strengthen the evidence of Gavin Breetzke, the former co-owner of the MIB building.

The building was allegedly sold to the district council at an inflated price in 2003 to accommodate the payment of commission to certain councillors, including the accused.

Moloi said Breetzke testified as a “section 204” or so-called “accomplice” witness in the case, while Watts had clearly cut a deal with the state in terms of which he pleaded guilty in 2011 to a lesser charge of money laundering and not corruption.

Watts was sentenced to a fine of R50 000, half suspended, plus a period of correctional supervision.

“He [Watts] had a lot to gain by implicating the accused,” said Moloi.

As accomplices, he said, the court should treat the evidence of both men with caution.

State advocate Makhosi Mthembu responded that no plea bargain was done with Watts. He had simply pleaded guilty to the charge of money laundering and the trial magistrate had decided a suitable sentence to impose on him.

She said it was in the interests of justice for the court to know what Watts had said in his statement, which could be corroboration for the evidence of other state witnesses.

The investigating officer, Warrant Officer Sunette Potgieter, told the court she took a statement from Watts three days after he had pleaded guilty. “He definitely was going to testify for the state,” she said.

She confirmed in cross-examination that the statement Watts made was along the same lines as what he’d said in his guilty plea.

Regional magistrate Jaco Jordaan will rule on the application today.

• Moloi and Shelembe have pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption in the case, while their co-accused, Thembinkosi Xaba, and Joyful and Nelisiwe Shelembe (Alpha Shelembe’s wife and sister respectively), have pleaded not guilty to money laundering.

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