Blue lights tender: Phahlane, Mgwenya fight to have case struck from roll, judgment expected in May

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Khomotso Phahlane. (Lindile Mbontsi, City Press)
Khomotso Phahlane. (Lindile Mbontsi, City Press)
  • Khomotso Phahlane and Bonang Mgwenya want the blue lights tender case to be struck from the roll. 
  • They argue the State has not made proper disclosure since 2020.  
  • The trial was initially scheduled to take place from 16 November to 10 December 2020.

Two former senior police officers will have to wait for almost two months to find out if their application to have their multimillion-rand blue lights tender case struck off the roll has succeeded. 

Former acting national commissioner Khomotso Phahlane and former deputy national police commissioner Bonang Mgwenya are fighting tooth and nail to have the case removed from the roll. 

The pair, allegedly involved in a fraudulent tender, appeared in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Johannesburg on Wednesday to continue arguing that the State failed to properly make a disclosure almost 10 months after it had undertaken to do so. 

Phahlane's lawyer argued in court papers that what had been disclosed to the accused was done in "such an unorganised and unstructured manner that it amounts to no disclosure in practice and law".

The State had disclosed approximately 1.5 terabytes of data to the defence and one terabyte was estimated to contain 75 million pages.

Phahlane's lawyer, advocate Piet du Plessis, told the court on Wednesday that disclosure should be made in a manner or fashion that was accessible.

He also argued that the defence could not be obligated to attempt to sort through, organise and locate all relevant data.

Phahlane also wanted the State to furnish him with a complete and legible case docket that contained relevant information relating to the charges brought against the accused.

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But for now, the matter should be struck from the roll, said Phahlane and Mgwenya.

Meanwhile, Mgwenya's lawyer argued that the State wanted to "ambush" them at trial because it did not want to tell the defence what documents were relevant.

"They want to ambush us," he said.

He added that the State had "failed dismally" to explain to the court why their application lacked merit.

"So, we say we should succeed in this application," he said.

However, prosecutor, advocate Tilas Chabalala, said the State was "entitled to resist a claim by the accused for access to any particular document in the police docket on the grounds that such access is not justified for the purposes of enabling the accused to properly exercise his or her right to a fair trial..."

He said Phahlane and Mgwenya's allegations did not justify the removal of this case from the court roll.

Chabalala said: 

The complaints of the two applicants are not based on any objective legal principles. They are mere tricks that have been designed to have the case removed from the court roll. The attitudes of both of them since [the] inception of the case is clear. [Mgwenya] has no problem with spending money on experts who are appointed to ensure that the case is removed from the court roll. She has problems with spending money on software to help with access to so-called problematic folders/files.

"The legal representatives of Accused 7 [Phahlane] and Accused 15 [Mgwenya] co-operate to plot against the State, but cannot help each other access each other's files. They are the only two who have problems with what has been disclosed by the State."

Judgment on the matter is expected on 13 May.

The other accused include businessman Vimpie Phineas Tlalefang Manthata, his company, Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement, former Gauteng police commissioner Deliwe de Lange, former police officers Ramahlapi Mokwena, James Ramanjalum, Lettie Napo, Thomas Marima, Joseph Mulaiwa, and civilians Judy Rose and Samantha Andrews. 

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The accused face 392 charges, including fraud, corruption, theft and money laundering related to the R191 million tender to fit 1 500 police vehicles with blue lights.

The court previously heard that the State had a watertight case against the accused.

The trial was scheduled to take place from 16 November to 10 December 2020, but the court heard an application to dismiss the case by lawyers representing the accused, News24 previously reported.

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