Top cop Zuma walks free

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IOL news jan 29  NM ZUMA COP2 THE MERCURY Bethuel Mondli Zuma, the man who would have been Gautengs head of police, leaves the Pietermaritzburg District Court with his mother, Priscilla, yesterday after he was found not guilty in the case that stopped his promotion. PICTURE: SIYANDA MAYEZA

Pietermaritzburg - Senior policeman Bethuel Mondli Zuma, who was charged with failing to obey a traffic officer and escaping from lawful custody, walked out of court a free man on Tuesday.

Zuma, whose promotion to Gauteng provincial commissioner was withdrawn because of the criminal case, was acquitted of all charges against him in the Pietermaritzburg District Court.

He was charged with drunk driving, escaping from custody, defeating the ends of justice and failing to comply with the instructions of a traffic officer in connection with a December 2008 incident.

Zuma was acquitted of both the drunk driving and defeating the ends of justice charges last year, after an application for a discharge was made by his attorney Sergie Brimiah.

On Tuesday, magistrate Reard Abrahams found Zuma not guilty on the remaining counts.

Asked to comment about the judgment, Zuma, who had his smiling mother, Priscilla, at his side, said: “It’s good.”

Brimiah said his client had been “vindicated and justice had prevailed”.

Priscilla Zuma said she was happy the case was over.

The State had alleged that in December 2008, Zuma drove through a roadblock and traffic officers gave chase.

Traffic officers claimed when they found Zuma outside his sister’s Abbot Road home, they tried to arrest him, but he pushed an officer out of his way and ran into the house.

In his defence Zuma admitted he drove through the roadblock but said he had suspected it was a “bogus operation” and he was aware of criminals who pretended to be officers and held fake roadblocks. He denied the other charges.

In a scathing judgment, Abrahams said the two traffic officers, Kerwin Johansen and Karen Bishop, who had testified in the case, had contradicted themselves and each other in their evidence.

He said the officers, who both had nine years’ experience, should have known how to deal with drunk driving cases.

“You expect these two to be trained about how to make statements in preparation for a trial.

“But the statements were not detailed.”

He said Bishop’s evidence had been “tailor made”, as she was under pressure to ensure that her evidence was “parallel” to Johansen’s testimony.

Abrahams found Zuma’s version was “reasonably possibly true”.

He said Zuma had testified that he believed the roadblock was bogus because it was in an unsafe area, there were no traffic cones to demarcate the area, there was no signage for the police and there was only one person on the road in a traffic officer’s uniform.

On the escaping from custody charge, Abrahams said the State had failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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The Mercury

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