Two of SA's longest-running court cases set to continue this year

06 January 2020 - 08:44 By ERNEST MABUZA
Former president Jacob Zuma's fight against his prosecution is set to continue this year. The Tigon matter, which began in 2006, is also set to continue in 2020.
Former president Jacob Zuma's fight against his prosecution is set to continue this year. The Tigon matter, which began in 2006, is also set to continue in 2020.

While former president Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial is yet to begin, despite him being first charged in 2005, it is not the only long-running case that the criminal justice system will have to grapple with in 2020.

The other is that of Gary Porritt and Sue Bennett, arrested in the early 2000s on various counts, including fraud and racketeering.

Their trial eventually started in 2015, but is nowhere near final.

Johannesburg high court judge Brian Spilg will hear arguments early in the year from the two on why he should recuse himself.

Judge Geraldine Borchers recused herself in 2011 after appearing in the matter for five years.

Porritt was arrested in 2002 after the infamous Tigon/PSC Guaranteed Growth scandal, with allegations that more than R160m invested in PSC disappeared into Porritt-associated business entities.

The indictment contained more than 3,000 counts involving contraventions of the Income Tax Act, the Companies Act and the Exchange Control Act, as well as racketeering and fraud.

Porritt and Bennett, who was arrested in 2003, have spent millions of rand on preliminary legal skirmishes that delayed the start of their trial.

The case has reached the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on two occasions and is now being dealt with by the third judge.

They brought an application in the high court, seeking that Legal Aid SA pay defence lawyers of their choice.

The high court agreed with them, but Legal Aid SA appealed to the SCA, which, in 2010, set aside the high court order.

When she recused herself, Borchers said she had had too much intimate contact with them.

After her recusal, Judge Lucy Mailula was assigned to the case.

Porritt and Bennett then brought another application in 2013, in which they sought the removal of the two prosecutors.

Mailula agreed with Porritt and Bennett, and ordered the removal of the prosecutors. However, Mailula refused to acquit them. In the SCA, Porritt and Bennett appealed the judge's refusal to acquit them.

Judge Zukisa Tshiqi dismissed their appeal in October 2014 and remitted the matter back to the high court for the criminal trial to proceed.

Spilg took the matter in 2015 and, after a number of preliminary applications from the two, the case began.

Porritt has been in jail since July 21 2017, when his bail was revoked after he failed to attend the matter on June 12 and 19 that year. His bail money of R100,000 was forfeited to the state.

Meanwhile, Zuma has yet to plead to charges of corruption, first put to him in 2005.

This is due to a number of challenges in the high courts, the SCA and the Constitutional Court.

The case was struck off the roll in 2006, but the charges were reinstated in December 2007, before acting national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Mokotedi Mpshe discontinued the prosecution in April 2009

The DA successfully reviewed Mpshe’s decision to discontinue the prosecution in 2016.

This meant the case would resume.

Last year, the NDPP indicted Zuma and French company Thales on one count of racketeering, four counts of corruption and one count of money-laundering. In addition, the NDPP decided that Zuma must be prosecuted for 12 counts of fraud.

However, the former president brought an application for a permanent stay of prosecution when the matter resumed last year.

The high court in Pietermaritzburg dismissed Zuma’s application with costs in October.

In November, the court also dismissed Zuma’s application for leave to appeal, with costs.

Last month, Zuma petitioned the SCA to challenge the dismissal of his application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

It is unclear whether the SCA will agree to hear his appeal.