BYLINE: Orrin Singh | Zululand Observer
PHOTO: Jamie Joseph | Saving the Wild
‘THE court will proceed with trial on 24 April 2019.’
Magistrate Zungu ruled with an iron fist last week when she presided over the case against alleged rhino poaching kingpin Dumisani Gwala on Thursday at the Mtubatuba Regional Court.
In a case which should have proceeded to trial months ago, Gwala may have thought he was able continue to exploit what he would have only deemed as a loop hole in the justice system, but this was not the case this time round – as he quickly found out.
The ‘broken record’ metaphor applied during Gwala and his co accused’s appearance last week, as the case was once again postponed after Gwala’s defence attorney, Mr Chetty, withdrew as his attorney on record – but there was a twist.
The court ruled in terms of Section 342(a) (1) (3) of the Criminal Procedure Act, which pertains to unreasonable delays in trials and reads:
(1) A court before which criminal proceedings are pending shall investigate any delay in the completion of proceedings which appears to the court to be unreasonable and which could cause substantial prejudice to the prosecution, the accused or his or her legal adviser, the State or a witness.
(3) If the court finds that the completion of the proceedings is being delayed unreasonably, the court may issue any such order as it deems fit in order to eliminate the delay and any prejudice arising from it or to prevent further delay or prejudice…
In simple, Magistrate Zungu’s frustration had boiled over, unleashing an undesirable outcome for Gwala, one that he has been attempting to avoid since his arrest in 2014, trial.
Zungu’s ruling meant that come hell or high water, the case would proceed to trial on 24 April, whether Gwala had an attorney or not.
Last month the Zululand Observer reported that Mr Chetty, who was introduced to the court as Gwala’s new attorney on 12 December, requested the court provide him the recordings of previous court proceedings.
Advocate Symington informed Magistrate Zungu on the morning that all the necessary transcripts had been handed over to Mr Chetty.
‘My colleagues were telephonically contacted by Mr Chetty this morning. He indicated he is withdrawing and that one Mr Anand Govender is appointed to represent accused 2 (Gwala),’ said Symington.
Following a number of conferrals, to allow Govender to arrive at court as he was not present, the court heard that Gwala had failed to pay his legal fees and thus Chetty was left with no choice but to withdraw.
After Govender placed himself on record as Gwala’s attorney he argued for a postponement for a trial date to be set, however Magistrate Zungu denied his request.
‘I am setting a date for trial. The matter will stand down. Whatever you do, do so prior to the trial date. I’m going to postpone the matter today for trial,’ she emphasized.
Before proceedings were brought to a close, Symington revealed that Gwala, who together with Makeba and Dlamini, face a combined 10 charges relating to the illegal purchase and possession of rhino horn‚ and of resisting arrest, would now be facing an additional charge of attempted murder.
‘The State added another count, being attempted murder in respect of accused 2 (Gwala). The defense has all evidence relating to this count. The attorney is aware of this as we discussed it with him before court resumed,’ said Symington.
Magistrate Zungu then reaffirmed her stance on the fact that there would be no further delays in the case which has been plagued by so many.
‘The court is ready to proceed.
‘Pre-trial was held at Ngwelezane.
‘Should there be any problems that come up before the trial date, the parties must sort it out between themselves before trial.
‘If there are any problems that come up and the court is involved, the matter can be recalled on earlier dates to sort it out.
‘The trial will proceed on 24 April 2019.
‘Mr Govender, if you are not paid, the trial will proceed with or without you and the accused will represent himself if you withdraw.
‘The court will proceed with trial on 24 April 2019,’ she repeated.
“It was the Dumisani Gwala case that led Saving the Wild to the discovery of an alleged syndicate of corrupt magistrates and lawyers. In the wake of the suspension of KwaZulu-Natal Regional Court President Eric Nzimande, the true test of justice will be this trial. Hats off to Magistrate Zungu and the state prosecutors for standing their ground. The rot has been removed. Now, finally, let justice be done!”
-Jamie Joseph | Saving the Wild Director