Logistical delays brought about by the Covid-19 lockdown have led to the postponement of the trial of six people accused of the murder of Tongaat teen Andile “Bobo” Mbuthu.
In the Verulam Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, Magistrate Rajesh Parshotam postponed the matter until 2 June, saying that the Covid-19 lockdown created a logistical challenge in getting the accused to court.
It was the second time in two weeks that the case was postponed.
He said he hoped the matter would go ahead when the country moves to a Level 3 lockdown next month.
Only offenders who committed petty crimes will be eligible to form part of the 19 000 inmates that will be released on parole to combat the spread of Covid-19 in prisons.
“We will have to wait and see what the government says. This is reiterating a problem countrywide with prisoners not being sent to court.
This problem is not unique to them but is the same problem all the prisoners in the country have.”
JUST IN: The impact of #Covid19SA on courts has resulted in the #justice4Bobo matter being postponed for bail app until June 2, its second delay. Prisoners cannot be transported to court despite efforts from the defence. @News24 @TeamNews24
— Kaveel Singh (@kaveels) May 26, 2020
He added that the appearance of the six accused – Mlungisi Thabete, 28, Andile Nhleko, 27, Mncedisi Mzobe, 27, Siyanda Msweli, 26, Lindani Ndlovu, 22 and Malusi Mthembu, 27 – would have been the first in the country during the lockdown if it had gone ahead.
Previously, defence lawyer Chris Gounden was asked to communicate with the prisons and police to ensure all six accused were brought to court.
Gounden said he communicated telephonically with the prisons but failed to get his clients to court.
“We cannot just leave the accused. There will be a peak in the virus. Currently, there are few people positive in prison, but as much as the numbers are low now, they will get higher. When numbers increase, are these accused just going to languish there?”
The total number of Covid-19 cases in SA’s prisons was 719 – 246 officials and 473 inmates – as of Monday, the Department of Correctional Services said.
Prosecutor Krishen Shah said that while the Constitution guaranteed the rights of the individual, the “rights of the many outweigh the rights of the few”.
“There is no easy way around this.”
He said phone calls Gounden claimed to have made were “not sufficient for the courts”.
“Those instructions need to be filtered in writing. If prisoners were supposed to be brought to court, a list should have come to instruct police to transport prisoners. There isn’t a paper trail to show this. These communications were all done orally.”
South Africa is scheduled to move to Level 3 lockdown on Monday, 1 June.
This was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday who said that most of the economy would be kickstarted under the more relaxed conditions.
The government is expected to announce details of Level 3 on Wednesday.
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