Case thrown out of court

Getrude Makhafola

Getrude Makhafola

Artists have come out with guns blazing, blaming the police for last week's bungling of a case against a Chinese national accused of manufacturing and selling pirated DVDs and CDs.

The artists - members of a group of artists involved in Operation Dudula, initiated by the Creative Workers' Union of South Africa to identify and report suspected piracy of CDs and DVDs to the police - also called for the government to review its trade relations with China in the light of the involvement of Chinese business people in piracy.

The artists say they went to the police to report an instance of suspected piracy of CDs and DVDs two weeks before the police raided the suspect.

The suspect, Zhoren Chen, had previously been arrested and charged with piracy and had been released on bail of R50000.

At Chen's second court appearance, following the police raid, the judge ruled that Operation Dudula artists had contaminated the crime scene and the case was removed from the specialised crimes court roll because of incorrect police procedure while arresting Chen without a search warrant.

Oupa Lebogo, CWSA general secretary, said: "We went to the commercial crimes unit who told us that a search warrant would be ready on the day of the raid.

"The fact that artists contaminated the crime scene is not true, the police handled everything there," he said.

He said it was a mystery that the police did not have a search warrant on the day of the raid.

One of the artists who had been to the crime scene, gospel singer Debra Fraser, said none of the artists touched the money that was found on the property.

"The police were the ones who prevented us from touching the pirated goods," she said.

CWSA also demanded that all spheres of government be involved in fighting piracy.

"We want the Home Affairs and Trade and Industry Departments to revisit their agreements with countries such as China," the union said.

Police and officials from the Department of Trade and Industry have confiscated DVDs, computers and CDs said to be worth R4million, from Chen's house in Cyrildene, Johannesburg.