Delay in fraud case ’prejudicial’ to Zandile Gumede, says lawyer
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Durban – The State’s case of corruption against former eThekwini mayor and ANC KZN MPL Zandile Gumede was postponed on Thursday, with the presiding magistrate warning further delays could lead to the matter being struck off the roll.
Durban Commercial Crimes Court magistrate Dawn Somaroo gave the warning in the seventh court appearance of Gumede and her co-accused.
Gumede and 17 of her co-accused, including suspended eThekwini city manager Sipho Nzuza, and his wife Bagcinile and senior ANC councillor Mondli Mthembu, face charges linked to a R430 million waste tender the eThekwini municipality issued in 2017 while Gumede was mayor.
The State alleges the tender was rigged, Gumede had a hand in it and allegedly pocketed undue financial benefits.
Somaroo’s warning was directed at State prosecutor, Ashiken Lucken, when she granted another postponement of the high-profile corruption case. The State said it needed more time to tie up some loose ends.
Lucken said she needed to first read the report before making a decision about it. She also asked for time to have the 245 files, containing 750 000 pages of exhibits, scanned before the trial got under way.
Samaroo warned if the State was not ready at its next appearance, “the court will hold an inquiry and one of the consequences could be that the matter may be struck off the roll”.
When the matter was last heard in September, Lucken requested a postponement, saying she needed three months to finalise a forensic report which contained crucial evidence.
On Thursday, Lucken said the State’s needed to go through the 741-page forensic report.
Somaroo and defence lawyers of the 18 accused said this was not acceptable. Instead, the lawyers said they wanted to have the forensic report in electronic format.
One of the most vocal defence lawyers was Jay Naidoo, who is representing Gumede. He said any further delay would be “prejudicial” to his client, whose political career was tainted by the case.
“This was a premature arrest… and it is prejudicial to my client (Gumede),” said Naidoo.
Later, Lucken conceded, as claimed by Naidoo, the State might have prematurely charged all the accused.
Also joining the fray was advocate Griffiths Madonsela, who is representing Nzuza. Madonsela said the State said it would be ready for the case in December.
“We want the State to keep its promise,” he said.
Despite accepting the postponement, Gumede’s lawyer said that should the State not be ready by the next date, he would revive his mothballed application to have the matter struck off the roll. The magistrate attached that as part of the condition for allowing the postponement.
Inside court, Gumede was offered moral support from her long-time confidantes which included senior eThekwini councillors, Zama Sokhabase and Thembo Ntuli, Mzomuhle Dube, the spokesperson of her supporters and Musa Nciki (her running mate for the ANC eThekwini regional conference) and Lindani Sicwala.
Outside court, a legion of her supporters donning ANC regalia waited for her. To their disappointment, she did not address them.
Dube, the spokesperson of the supporters, said that was because Gumede was barred from addressing ANC members and structures, after she was placed on leave as part of the “step aside” resolution for ANC members facing charges.
“As you can see, these supporters are in ANC colours, addressing them would be a breach of the directive from the movement. So, she decided to abide by that ruling. Remember that even the (provincial integrity) commission has not ruled on her case,” Dube said.