Civil proceedings are an inappropriate forum to consider the merits of the state’s criminal case against suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and co-accused, the Bloemfontein high court said in a judgment on Monday.
It dismissed the accused’s application to squash the charges.
“The court tasked with adjudicating a criminal trial is the forum which must be approached with regard to challenges or objections relating to criminal charges, during the course of the criminal trial,” said Judge Soma Naidoo, adding that the application could be heard in “a trial-within-a-trial to determine the admissibility of disputed evidence, which this court is unable to do”.
She granted the case in favour of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) with costs against the applicants.
Magashule and 15 others face charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering, and various other statutory contraventions linked to a contract awarded by the Free State Department of Human Settlements for the assessment and audit of homes with asbestos roofing.
Magashule was the premier of the Free State at the time, and the criminal charges against him emanate from transactions that occurred during the period where his office solicited sponsorship for student funding from businesses that did work with the provincial government, including businessman Edwin Sodi’s Blackhead Consulting – which was awarded the asbestos contract in a joint venture.
While Magashule also charged the NPA with prosecutorial misconduct, Naidoo said the extensive submission was “irrelevant detail for current purposes”.
His complaint included that the prosecutor assigned to the case, Advocate Johannes De Nysschen, initially claimed that his former PA Moroadi Cholota was a state witness, but she was later declared an accused.
However, she said a case could be made that Magashule’s complaint regarding the status of Cholota was moot since at this point, “she can no longer be regarded as a defence or state witness” because she was being charged.
The judge said it was also up to the trial court to determine Magashule’s “request that a list of the witnesses specifically implicating him”. She said the determination on whether or not the statutory charges relating to the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act were brought to the court lawfully was also outside her ambit.
“As with the other applications, the orders that Magashule seeks are matters that should be addressed to the trial court. It is for this reason that I hold the view that it would not be appropriate for this court to deal with the merits of this application”.