2011-07-28 00:00

DARYL Peense has been convicted of assaulting President Jacob Zuma — with alcohol.

Peense froze as he listened to the closing statement by magistrate Guguletu Mpikeleli at Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

“The state has proven beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Peense intentionally and unlawfully threw alcohol on our president, which constitutes assault.

“The case is admittedly unique, but nevertheless a very serious matter,” said Mpikeleli.

Peense, a racehorse owner and businessman of Alberton, Johannesburg, testified that in the pushing and shoving on a crowded balcony he accidentally spilt some of his whisky and water as President Jacob Zuma and his entourage were passing below during last year’s July Handicap.

He was arrested by SA Police Service officers of the Presidential Special Protection Unit and locked up at the Berea police station.

Mpikeleli was unforgiving in her judgment and would have sent Peense straight to jail had it not been for a challenge from his attorney reminding her that his client is not a flight risk and has been attending court without problems.

In their statements two members of the Presidential Special Protection Unit unit said the accused was being monitored because he looked suspicious with his glass of whisky and they reacted the way they were trained to, since the liquid could have been “acid”.

It was unclear whether any alcohol had in fact touched Zuma.

However, Mpikeleli said it was uncanny that alcohol had spilled on Zuma and not anyone else — and that security and police were doing their job which is to “over-react”.

Mpikeleli also considered that Peense walked away from the area he was initially standing in after dropping the alcohol, which made him suspicious.

Peense previously testified that he left to get another drink, since his drink had spilt and that he had no idea as to who was standing underneath him.

Speaking to The Witness casually over a beer at a nearby tote office after the trial, Peense said he did not expect the guilty verdict.

“When she started it really seemed it was going my way, but in her closing statements I knew that was it.

“I can’t begin to explain the damage this has done to my reputation and my business, and let’s not talk about the financial strain,” he said.

Peense claims to have spent over R100 000 in legal fees and travel expenses and the costs will continue to pile up after the guilty verdict.

He pointed out several contradictions that he felt were evident in the magistrate’s judgment and said he will continue to defend his innocence.

“I did nothing wrong — yes I was drunk — it was the July and most of the guys were in good spirits.

“How can it be ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ when there were so many questions and inconsistencies?

“Zuma wasn’t even aware of the incident. I just want this nightmare to be over,” Peense said.

Sentence will be passed on September 7.

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