Police chief for a day

2013-09-11 00:00

THE policeman who holds the unenviable record of being relieved of his duties as a provincial commissioner after only a few hours in charge, was in court yesterday to face a drunk driving charge.

Lieutenant-General Bethuel Mondli Zuma, whose appointment as Gauteng’s police chief was short-lived after authorities realised he faces criminal charges, appeared briefly in a Pietermaritzburg court yesterday in connection with a drunk driving and escaping justice case.

Zuma is expected to testify that he did not stop at a roadblock during the early hours of the morning as he suspected the traffic officers to be “bogus” officers.

Zuma maintains that he made a call to his commanders as he was performing official duties in Pietermaritzburg at the time, and reported to them.

The Witness has learned that when Zuma was arrested and charged he allegedly held the rank of a police brigadier. Two years later he was promoted to major-general (despite the pending charge) and when he was appointed as the new Gauteng provincial police commissioner last month, his rank was reportedly upgraded to that of lieutenant-general.

The matter was postponed until today as the presiding magistrate was away on a course yesterday.

Zuma faces charges of drunk driving, escaping from custody, defeating the administration of justice and failing to comply with the lawful instructions of a traffic officer.

The case dates back to December 2008.

He pleaded not guilty during an earlier court appearance to all the charges before magistrate Reard Abrahams.

The state alleges that a breathalyser test administered during the early hours of December 19, 2008, revealed that Zuma’s breath alcohol content was 0,65 mg per 1 000 ml of breath.

The legal limit is 0,24 mg per 1 000 ml of breath.

The state alleges that Zuma — who was driving an unmarked state-owned vehicle in Alexandra Road around midnight — failed to stop at a roadblock.

At the time he was accompanied by his wife.

He was allegedly confronted by traffic officials outside the gate of a house in Carey Road, Pelham, where officers carried out a breathalyser test.

The court has heard evidence that when the officers wanted to place Zuma under arrest and handcuff him he pushed them away, jumped over a two-metre- high wall and took refuge inside the house for a period of about two hours.

This allegedly prevented the officials from obtaining a blood sample to test the alcohol level in his bloodstream.

Zuma’s attorney, Sergie Brimiah, said Zuma’s version differs from the state’s.

He alleges that while he and his wife were travelling along Alexandra Road a person dressed in a traffic officer’s uniform tried to stop him.

However, because it was in the early hours of the morning and he suspected the person could be a “bogus” officer, he did not stop.

He then allegedly drove to a family residence at 3 Carey Road and went inside.

According to the defence version, Zuma heard a “commotion” outside and discovered the traffic police at the scene. He alleges that he was thereafter arrested.

Zuma made his first appearance in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court in February last year in response to a summons that was issued.

National commissioner Riah Phiyega withdrew Zuma’s appointment within hours following the discovery that he faces criminal charges.

Sapa reported that Phiyega said she discussed the matter with Zuma to establish the facts and he confirmed that he had appeared in court several times in connection with the case in Pietermaritzburg.

Zuma reportedly has 20 years’ service with the SAPS.

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