State to show why police 'blue lights' tender case should go ahead
The state was on Tuesday expected to explain why it believes the fraud and corruption case against former acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane should not be struck off the roll.
Phahlane is set to appear alongside 10 other people - and one company - in connection with the R191m so-called “blue lights case” at the Johannesburg Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday.
Other accused are businessman Vimpie Manthata, his company Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement, recently fired deputy national commissioner Bonang Mgwenya and former Gauteng provincial commissioner Deliwe de Lange. Others are former divisional commissioner for supply chain management Ramahlapi Mokwena, and police officials James Ramanjalum, Nombhuruza Letti Napo, Thomas Dumasi Marima, Maetapese Joseph Mulaiwa, Judy Rose and Samantha Andrews.
They are expected to answer to charges of fraud, theft and obstructing or defeating the ends of justice.
The charges relate to a multimillion-rand tender which Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement was awarded to install warning lights on 1,550 police vehicles, at grossly inflated prices.
The state alleges that the police accused ignored a competitive bidding process and committed the police service to financial exposure of R191m in favour of Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement, in exchange for benefits received from Manthata.
In the case of Mgwenya, the state alleges Manthata assisted her with purchasing a BMW X5 by paying R440,000 towards the purchase price and negotiating a discount of R284,580 for her with a car dealer.
When the case was set to begin for trial last Monday, Phahlane's advocate Zweli Zakwe, launched an application in terms of Section 342A of the Criminal Procedure Act, asking the court to investigate delays in the completion of proceedings that appear to be unreasonable.
The section states that if the court finds the completion of the proceedings is delayed unreasonably, it may - where the accused has not pleaded to the charge - strike the matter off the roll.
Zakwe asked the court to order that the matter be struck off the roll.
He said though the state had indicated in July that it would be ready for trial on November 16, it soon became clear the state misled the court that it had completed its investigations.
Zakwe said investigators conducted a raid at Phahlane's home in October where they seized his computer.
Zakwe said Phahlane's attorneys wrote a letter to the investigators contending that the seizure was unlawful.
Another letter was written on behalf of Phahlane asking for the seized items to be returned.
Another letter was written by Phahlane's lawyers on October 26 requesting a pretrial conference to deal with these outstanding issues.
It is not only Phahlane who wants the case struck off the roll.
Keilin Muthray, representing Mokwena and Ramanjalum, told the court that two years had lapsed since his clients were arrested.
He said after a year-and-a-half of investigations, the state indicated in March that it was ready for trial.
Muthray said in March this year, his clients asked the state for discovery, where the accused may ascertain what documents relating to the charges they face are with the prosecution.
“In June, discovery was not made,” Muthray said.
Muthray said in July, the accused were presented with a hard drive containing 1.1 million documents comprising evidence to prepare for the start of the trial in November.
“While we were going through these documents, it became clear that the matter was not trial-ready.”
Muthray said there was more that the state had not discovered.
Muthray said the charge sheet was revised four times and he was struggling to see where it was alleged that his clients were involved in the fraud.
“The case needs to be struck off the roll,” Muthray said.
Counsel for Manthata, Laurance Hodes, also asked the court to strike the matter off the roll or grant a permanent stay of prosecution.
Tilas Chabalala, the prosecutor, said last Monday he was not ready at the time to respond to the application by Phahlane. He asked the court to postpone the matter until Tuesday.