Kimberley - Charges were withdrawn against three of the 15 accused in the Trifecta office rental trial in the Northern Cape High Court on Monday.
Prosecutor Peter Serunye informed the court of changes to the indictment, which resulted in the withdrawal of charges against three social development department officials.
Judge Mathebe Phatshoane told the officials, Rodney Saal, Calvin Rayland and Palesa Lebona, that they were excused from the matter and they left the court room.
Northern Cape African National Congress leader John Block, two other provincial ANC heavyweights, Yolanda Botha and Alvin Botes, and Trifecta director Christo Scholtz, face charges of fraud, corruption, and money laundering. The other eight accused are companies in the Trifecta Group, some of which belong to Block and Botes.
Block and Botes are both Northern Cape MECs. Botha is an ANC MP.
The National Prosecuting Authority alleges the Trifecta Group entered into a number of lease agreements with the Northern Cape social development department in which rentals, or rental space, were grossly inflated. As a result, the Trifecta Group received, or would receive, rentals of R57 million at the end of the lease agreements.
Members of the Democratic Alliance picketed outside the court building on Monday morning. The group, dressed in blue T-shirts, held placards with anti-corruption slogans.
“Fire Corrupt Cadres”, “NC deserves better” and “Corruption steals jobs” stated some of the placards. On others there were calls for action against Block.
When court proceedings started after lunch, the scene changed from a crowd mostly in blue T-shirts, to a crowd in yellow ANC T-shirts. Several people in yellow ANC T-shirts and relatives of the accused were in court during the short afternoon session.
On Monday, the Congress of the People in the province demanded that Block and Botes should resign their Northern Cape government jobs.
“They have violated the trust they hold as members of the executive and they must vacate their seats until their names are cleared,” said Cope's provincial chairman Fred Wyngaard.
“It cannot be in a normal democracy that you still hold office while you are facing so many criminal charges.”
The trial continues.