Lawyers want court to strike R191m police blue lights case off roll

16 November 2020 - 14:56 By ernest mabuza
Lawyers lobbied on Monday to have the multimillion-rand blue lights case struck off the court roll.
Lawyers lobbied on Monday to have the multimillion-rand blue lights case struck off the court roll.
Image: 123RF/radututa

Lawyers representing some of the accused in the R191m "blue lights" case asked the Johannesburg specialised commercial crimes court to strike the matter off the roll on Monday. 

An advocate for co-accused Vimpie Manthata asked the court to grant a permanent stay of prosecution, meaning they should not be tried again. 

The state indicated on Monday that it was ready to proceed with the case against Manthata, a businessman, and 12 others including former acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane, to answer on charges of fraud, theft, and obstructing or defeating the course of justice.

The charges relate to a R191m tender in which Manthata's company received for the installation of emergency lights on police vehicles.

The state dropped charges against one of the accused Ravichandran Pillay on Monday. 

However, a lawyer representing Ramahlapi Mokwena and James Ramanjalum said the matter was not trial ready as there were documents the state had not provided to them and it was unclear what case they had to answer.

Phahlane's legal representative indicated to the court that he wanted the court to conduct an inquiry into the trial delays.

Section 342A of the Criminal Procedure Act empowers the court to investigate any delay in the completion of proceedings which appears to the court to be unreasonable.

The act states that if the court finds the completion of proceedings is delayed unreasonably, it may - where the accused had not yet pleaded to the charge - order that the case be struck off the roll and the prosecution not be resumed or instituted anew without the written instruction of the director of public prosecutions.

Prosecutor Tilas Chabalala said, however, there were previously attempts by some of the accused to have the matter struck off the roll.

Counsel for Manthata, Laurance Hodes, said he was under the impression that the state intended to apply for a postponement. He said Chabalala had a duty to inform the court about developments that took place between when the accused appeared in court in July and on Monday. 

Hodes said the state dropped charges against one accused and added another accused, former deputy national commissioner Binang Mgwenya, last month. 

There was also a search and seizure operation at the home of former Gauteng police commissioner Deliwe de Lange last month 

"He has engineered the postponement, to add the accused, to remove the accused, without having to do so himself," Hodes said.

He said Manthata was arrested in November 2018. Charges against him were withdrawn a year later before he was rearrested in June.

Hodes asked the court to either strike the matter off the roll or grant a permanent stay of prosecution.

The matter continues.