- The criminal case against a large group of accused in an allegedly fraudulent tender to brand police vehicles has been struck from the court roll.
- The Pretoria Magistrate’s Court struck the matter from the roll after finding that the State had been afforded an opportunity to get its house in order.
- Magistrate Thandi Theledi said the State had been shifting the goalposts and coming up with technicalities in order to have the matter postponed.
The criminal case against dozens of police officers, business people and companies implicated in an allegedly fraudulent tender to brand police vehicles has been struck from the court roll.
There were scenes of jubilation as the more than 40 accused heard that the matter against them had been removed from the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court roll on Thursday.
The court handed down judgment after the accused brought an application to have the matter removed.
However, the Investigating Directorate (ID) vowed on Thursday night to reinstate the matter.
State prosecutor Tilas Chabalala asked the court for a six or seven month postponement, saying that the State needed to apply to the National Director of Public Prosecutions for the authorisation of racketeering charges.
Chabalala told the court that he also had to amend the 600-plus-page charge sheet and that the matter would be ready to be transferred to the high court for trial in the next appearance.
Disclosure of the docket was also made.
However, the 16 legal representatives for the accused asked the court to remove the matter from the roll, arguing that the State had been dragging its feet, in what they referred to as a fishing expedition.
Timothy Ramabulana, who is representing over a dozen of the accused, told the court that the State’s conduct is this matter has been nothing short of malicious.
He argued that the reasons given for a postponement were a farce in that the State had enough time to get its house in order during the last postponement.
Ramabulana argued that the last postponement had been marked final and that the excuses forwarded in court on Thursday were nothing more than an attempt to avoid having the matter struck from the roll.
He said the delays violated the rights of his clients and that it was clear that investigations had still not been completed.
Several other attorneys echoed Ramabulana’s arguments and agreed that the matter should be struck from the roll so that the State could get its house in order.
Attorneys said the postponement request amounted to a miscarriage of justice and that the State had misled the court as to why it needed another postponement.
Chabalala hit back at the defence teams, arguing that it would be premature to remove the matter from the roll and that there was no legal basis to do so.
He also told the court that the matter was complex and involved criminal enterprises within the police, and that those who were guilty should not be able to escape prosecution.
Chabalala also argued that the State was ready for trial which is why it had disclosed the docket, but argued that investigations could never be completed, as new information came to light.
In her judgment, Magistrate Thandi Theledi pointed out that the court had marked the last court appearance on 29 September as final for further investigations.
She said the State had never informed the court that authorisation for racketeering charges needed to be obtained and that the authorisation could have been applied for during the six-month postponement granted in September last year.
Theledi found that the State had not taken the court into its confidence as to why the racketeering certificate had not yet been obtained, nor did the State explain whether the investigation had been completed.
She stressed that a six-month postponement had been granted to ensure that justice was served and no party was prejudiced.
"The State was given a changed to finalise investigation and get its house in order," Theledi said.
The magistrate added that the accused had a right to a fair trial without unreasonable delays and that the court had a duty to ensure that justice was carried out in a fair manner for both the accused and State.
Theledi found that the State was shifting the goal posts in coming up with technicalities to have the matter postponed.
As a consequence, she struck the matter from the roll.
However, this does not mean that the accused are off the hook and the State will be able to apply to have the matter re-enrolled.
The accused were arrested in relation to a multimillion-rand tender involving the marking of police vehicles.
According to the State, a number of senior police officials colluded with private businesses to score the tender.
It's alleged that there is clear evidence of collusive bidding, very high price inflations, tampering with bidders' documents and manipulation of procurement processes, among other procurement contraventions, in the awarding of the tender.
The State also alleges that gratifications were paid to the police officials involved.
ID head, Advocate Hermione Cronje, said the case was a criminal enterprise and the team would be bringing a request to the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi for a racketeering certificate.
"We must add that this is an active syndicate and the sophistication of cover quoting and concealing the manner of operation to defraud the state, will not go unprosecuted," said Cronje.
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