2010-10-15 00:00

THE case against 51 Murchison Hospital employees who were arrested on charges of public violence in August was removed from the court roll at the Port Shepstone Magistrate’s Court yesterday after the magistrate refused to postpone the matter again.

The Directorate of Public Prosecutions had asked the court to postpone the case until December 9.

Magistrate Molefe removed the case from the court roll, saying it would only be reinstated if or when the prosecution had acquired enough evidence to proceed with it.

The hospital employees had joined the public servants’ wage and benefits strike.

Their colleagues came to court in their masses to see the trial continue yesterday.

When Molefe proposed that the case continue, the state said it had still to decide whether it should proceed with the prosecution.

The three attorneys representing the employees stood up one by one to oppose the postponement.

They said a postponement would prejudice the accused as they were entitled to a speedy and fair trial in terms of the Constitution and their rights.

They added that their clients have left patients unattended at the hospital and need to get back to work as soon as possible.

The attorneys appealed to the magistrate to pressure the Directorate of Public Prosecutions to make a decision.

Molefe said he was ready to begin the case as early as August 19 as it has attracted national interest and publicity since it involves employees who render essential services.

He said the public needs an uninterrupted health service at the hospital.

“There was a public outcry when the employees went on strike,”Molefe said.

“So I was prepared to speedily finalise the case or even work after hours. But the Directorate of Public Prosecutions wanted to postpone it.”

The magistrate added that he would not allow any further postponements because he is not prepared to keep hospital employees away from their services any longer.

He addressed the 51 accused.

“Your job is to protect the lives of the people, not to engage in strikes and leave the patients alone in danger of losing their lives.

“This matter should have been speedily attended in court.”

The prosecution will bring the case back to court if it otains more evidence.

Murchison Hospital public relations officer Silindile Mabaso said she is happy with the court’s decision to remove the case from the court roll.

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