Durban — State witnesses were fearful of testifying in the Zandile Gumede trial after one of them was allegedly threatened over the weekend, it emerged in the Durban High Court on Monday.
Police are expected to give the court feedback on Friday as to what measures had been put in place to protect the witnesses.
The witnesses thus far have all been eThekwini municipal officials.
Gumede, the former eThekwini mayor, together with former city manager Sipho Nzuza and 21 others, faces a myriad of charges – including conspiracy to commit corruption, corruption, fraud, money laundering, racketeering, contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act, and of the Municipal Systems Act – amounting to more than R300 million in relation to a Durban Solid Waste (DSW) tender.
On Monday, state prosecutor Ashika Lucken said a witness could not come to court to testify after a shooting incident at her home on Saturday. It is alleged that a bullet might have struck her bedroom window.
“The prosecution team received a call on Saturday at approximately 6.30am informing us that there had been a shooting at the witness’s premises. A bullet has been recovered,” explained Lucken.
She said the witness and her family members were not harmed. She added that the police had registered a docket and an investigation was ongoing. The court did not reveal the name of the witness or her address.
“We have been informed by the investigating officers that she is not in a position to testify. She also took some time off work to compose herself and recover from the incident,” said Lucken.
She added that police had been inundated with phone calls from other witnesses that the state intended to call.
Lucken said the police had to do risk assessment and put measures in place to ensure the safety of the witnesses.
“This is going to take some time. The State would have to try and calm down the situation with regards to witnesses. The police said there were too many operations to put together in order to ensure the witnesses’ safety.”
Lucken said the police would report back on Friday.
“We will see if we are able to start (again) on Friday or Monday.”
Gumede said she was not happy about the delay in the case.
“They are supposed to come and testify, and tell the truth. Now they telling us that their houses were being shot at. Some are saying they are scared to come to court and testify,” said Gumede.
Recently, the Daily News reported that key witness Mbuso Ngcobo, head of the eThekwini Municipality’s investigation arm, the City Integrity and Investigations Unit (CIIU), was forced to resign after receiving death threats.
Ngcobo’s unit investigated the more than R400 million Durban Solid Waste (DSW) tender scandal before the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI-Hawks) took over.
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