Hlope junior due in court for fraud

The trial of Thuthuke Hlope, the son of Western Cape Judge President John Hlope, is expected to continue in the Bellville Regional Court on Monday.

The trial was postponed on March 14 because Bachelor of Commerce student Hlope needed to “take stock”.

After several delays, two caused by the withdrawal of two different magistrates from the case, Hlophe’s trial was to have started in the Bellville Regional Court in Cape Town on March 14.

Instead, magistrate Kenny Pieterse postponed proceedings to June 25.

Hlophe faces six counts of fraud, three of theft, three of uttering (or presenting) forged documents, one of defeating the ends of justice and one violation of the Identification Act.

On his last appearance, his lawyer Thembalihle Sidaki told the court much had happened since March 12, when Hlophe was to have gone on trial before magistrate Susan Smith.

He said Hlophe needed time to “take stock of what had happened”.

Smith recused herself from the trial in March after dismissing defence allegations that prosecutor Ezmarelda Johnson was pursuing the charges maliciously.

Because the defence allegations had caused her to delve into the merits of the case, she could no longer preside, Smith said.

Johnson said the case had been on the roll since 2009, and that all the delays had been occasioned by the defence team. Sidaki denied this. He said Hlophe had initially pleaded guilty to fewer charges in plea-bargain proceedings before magistrate Johann Vermaak, who had since retired.

The case was then taken to the High Court for the convictions to be set aside, after the defence had realised Hlophe had incorrectly pleaded guilty.

However, the High Court was unable to review the matter due to the failure of the court administration to forward crucial documents to the judge.

Sidaki said the original prosecutor, Sylvan Africa, had since resigned and the case re-allocated to Johnson, causing a further delay.

The recusal of two magistrates, firstly Specialised Commercial Crime magistrate Amrith Chabillal, and then Smith, had caused further delays, Sidaki said.

Johnson said all the prosecution witnesses were present in court, ready to testify, and the State was ready to proceed.

Pieterse said the case would only be scheduled for trial in June if, on April 16, the case was in fact ready for trial.

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