Ace Magashule lays claim to state’s ‘star witness’ in asbestos trial
The pretrial of suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and 15 others was postponed on Wednesday to October 19 by the high court in Bloemfontein.
Magashule and his co-accused face charges relating to R255m tender fraud from 2014 when he was premier of the Free State. The multimillion-rand tender was for the removal of asbestos roofing in houses in the province.
During the proceedings, a tug-of-war played out over whether Magashule’s former personal assistant Moroadi Cholota would testify on his behalf or would stand as a state witness.
Advocate Laurance Hodes, for Magashule and his co-accused Edwin Sodi, submitted that the state had drafted a statement on her behalf but she was yet to sign it, dismissing her as a “so-called star witness”.
“They have not secured her as a witness,” Hodes told the court.
He said it was stated in Magashule’s bail conditions that he not make contact with Cholota going forward.
“We believe this is factually incorrect because we had already had a statement from her as a defence witness,” Hodes said, adding the state was aware of this.
“We have a statement from her predating her appearance before the [state capture] commission, which they do not,” Hodes said.
He told the court they planned to bring an application challenging the legality of Magashule and Sodi’s testimony before the state capture inquiry used against them in the trial.
The state contended the case was not based on this information.
“The Zondo commission is nice to have, but this case is not based on evidence before judge Raymond Zondo. That does not say we are not going to use it,” said prosecutor Johannes de Nysschen.
Regarding Cholota, he said the state had the first say when it came to witnesses.
He said she had made a statement with her lawyer, had given evidence to the commission and had given a statement which is yet to be signed, but these were all sworn statements.
De Nysschen said whether Cholota would be a state witness, defence witness or witness of the court could be determined later, even through a trial-within-a-trial.
Abel Kgotso Manyeki, who represents the company Ori Group, told the court he had dropped his legal representative and would apply for a Legal Aid lawyer.
Regarding the issues raised by Hodes, the court ruled these matters would be attended to by the judge appointed to see the matter into trial.
All of the accused are out on bail.