Screen grab's veracity questioned in Land Party leader's trial

2019-06-07 20:10
Gobela Ndzongana surrounded by supporters as he leaves court in Stellenbosch (Jenni Evans, News24)

Gobela Ndzongana surrounded by supporters as he leaves court in Stellenbosch (Jenni Evans, News24)

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The recent court judgment against the EFF in the matter brought by Karima Brown may have had its first court citation on Friday as the lawyer for Land Party leader Gcobani Ndzongana objected to the use of a screen grab in his trial in the Stellenbosch Regional Court.

Prosecutor Harold Engelbrecht had referenced a screen grab of a Facebook post relating to an alleged plan to destroy a fence separating Zwelihle and Sandbaai in Hermanus in July 2018 due to ongoing land protests.

He was questioning an Overstrand Law Enforcement manager, Johannes du Toit, on how he came to witness the destruction of a fence separating Sandbaai and Zwelihle.

Du Toit testified that he got wind that something was up when he was sent a screen grab of a post purportedly from Ndzongana, "saying they were going to break down the fence".

Ndzongana's lawyer, Thulasizwe Twalo, was on his feet quickly, objecting to the reference pertaining to the post and screen grab.

Engelbrecht said his reference to the post was supported by Thursday's judgment that found in favour of journalist and political analyst Brown when she took the EFF to court over threatening tweets.

The tweets followed her accidentally posting an editorial note in an EFF media WhatsApp group instead of to a colleague about an EFF meeting that was going to be covered.

It was deleted, but not before EFF leader Julius Malema took a screen grab of it, and alleged that she was sending a "mole" to their meeting.

READ:EFF failed to address its failure to instruct followers to stop harassing Karima Brown, court rules

Engelbrecht said that this judgment meant that although the screen grab was taken via electronic media, it should not be considered hearsay, and should be regarded as evidence in light of the Brown vs EFF judgment.

Ironically, Ndzongana was an EFF member before starting the Land Party. He has resigned from his job at the Department of Correctional Services to focus on the party.

Engelbrecht added that the Facebook post was also in the public domain via the Facebook app.

But Twalo disagreed, saying it had not been verified by an expert that it was Ndzongana's account, and the source of the screen grab had not been established.

"I can go on Facebook and create an account from your name," Twalo told Magistrate Fezile Tonisi.

"I can say what I want to say. Is it really your words?" he asked Tonisi.

"That account does not belong to my client," added Twalo.

Tonisi sustained Twalo's objection and said the account should first be verified.

Engelbrecht used another approach, asking Du Toit: "Did you act on certain information?"

People in the tiny public gallery listened intently while whistling and singing by Ndzongana's supporters could be heard outside the court as only a limited number of people were allowed in.

Du Toit explained that after receiving information, he had monitored activities in Zwelihle via CCTV cameras and a private security company.

On May 7, they observed a group of between 400 to 500 people walking down Schulphoek Road, which is a main thoroughfare through the suburb, via CCTV cameras.

He left his office, joined a senior official and approached the group as it was standing next to the fence. The police were also present.

People in the public gallery sniggered as he struggled to pronounce Zwelihle, and he went red as he tripped over his words trying to spell it.

Engelbrecht had him tell the court that isiXhosa was not his first language and he continued giving evidence in Afrikaans.

He said the fence was there to prevent children from running into the road.

He said the official he was with had then started speaking to Ndzongana who was with the large group.

"The next moment the group was trampling the fence down. They kept doing this until it fell down."  

He said he did not hear Ndzongana say anything to anybody in the group, but he had observed him walking next to the fence with the group and also trampling on it.

The court heard that about R400 000 in damages was caused to the 100m long and 2m high fence and its poles.

Asked how he knew Ndzongana, he said that Ndzongana was known in the area to be the leader of the group Zwelihle Renewal.

He also pointed him out in photographs he took on the day.

Ndzongana was arrested on either July 11 or 12, he remembered.

As Engelbrecht asked Du Toit what songs the group were singing, the loud sirens of the vans that take inmates back to prison drowned out any further questioning for a few minutes.

Ndzongana's trial was postponed to June 21 after Tonisi said time had run out.

Read more on:    land party  |  gcobani ndzongana  |  cape town  |  land

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