Gloves are off: tensions flare in court in Panday corruption trial

2011-09-29 00:00

USUALLY mild-mannered and composed, lawyer Jimmy Howse lost his cool in the Durban Magistrate’s court yesterday when he called state prosecutor Bheki Manyathi “as corrupt as the state” in the Panday corruption trail.

The gloves were apparently off as tensions flared when magistrate Thomas Mhleko exited the court room.

Manyathi was surrounded by family and friends of businessman Thoshan Panday, while co-accused Navin Madhoe’s lawyer, Joe Wolmarans, and Howse asked the prosecutor off the record what his reasons are for insisting that the accused be remanded at the Westville Prison.

They also wanted to know why he is “dragging the matter and opposing bail when their clients are neither flight risks nor a danger to society?”

Manyathi, in his defence, said he simply needs more time to peruse and understand documents submitted this week, so that a fair trial could proceed, and that where the accused are remanded is out of his control.

With two minutes to go before the close of the working day Mhleko allowed the defence to attempt to obtain a written letter stating there is enough space available for the two accused the cells, which something Manyathi denied.

They were astonished that the complainant, head of Hawks Johan Booysen, respond to the inquiry.

Booysen rejected the inquiry, stating that the two will have to be remanded at the less-than-satisfactory confines of Westville Prison as opposed to the Brighton Beach police station and Durban Central.

Panday’s arrest came after a sting operation in which supply chain management police officer Madhoe allegedly attempted to bribe Booysen to backdate a document, on Panday’s instructions.

Panday, the focus of a probe into a R60 million police accommodation tender, was arrested at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport on Saturday on returning from Zambia where he was reportedly on business.

Panday last year allegedly organised and paid for a birthday party for Brigadier Lucas Ngobeni, the husband of KwaZulu-Natal police chief Lieutenant-General Mamunye Ngobeni.

Madhoe, meanwhile, was arrested allegedly moments after he had put a suitcase containing almost R1,3 million into Booysen’s car.

It is alleged that a further R700 000 was to be paid later.

The funds were apparently made available by Panday.

HMadhoe denied any bribery allegation, saying the claim was a desperate measure taken by the Hawks to revive a dormant case more than a year old, and that he is a pawn used in an attempt to revive it and strengthen a smear campaign against Lucas Ngobeni.

The Ngobenis are being interviewed by the Hawks for their role in the tender process.

Sources say more arrests are imminent.

The trial resumes at the Durban Magistrate’s Court tomorrow for a bail application.

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