Durban - A key ally of President Cyril Ramaphosa in KwaZulu-Natal is facing a bleak future after a third failed attempt to quash a corruption and money laundering trial that could end his political career.
Mike Mabuyakhulu, a former MEC of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (Edtea) and current ANC KZN deputy chairperson, stood with the incumbent when the majority of branches in the province were in favour of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma ahead of the Nasrec conference.
Mabuyakhulu now faces a bleak future after Judge Mahendra Chetty of the Durban High Court dismissed a bid to have the trial quashed due to delays by the State in getting it concluded timeously and without prejudice.
The application was brought in terms of Section 342A of the Criminal Procedure Act. The act empowers any party to seek relief if their case is delayed and they are deemed to be prejudiced.
It was not the first time an attempt was made to quash the trial. Mabuyakhulu once lodged a permanent stay of prosecution and failed. He later asked the court to separate his trial from the rest, saying the delays were hampering his political career.
The court dismissed it as well. That has resulted in the case being last heard in March and the next round of hearings will be in October this year.
Judge Chetty said it was not in dispute that there had been numerous delays in the criminal trial which commenced in August 2021. These delays have taken the form of State witnesses not being available punctually at court, or adjournments being occasioned where one witness concluded his or her testimony, without the State having another witness in readiness to testify.
“For its part, the State does not deny the allegations that various witnesses have not been at court punctually, or in isolated instances, failed to arrive at the appointed time.
“However, it was contended on behalf of the State that many of its witnesses are private individuals who are employed in the entertainment and events management industry. It is therefore not possible to secure the attendance of witnesses to remain at court for an entire day, in the anticipation that they may be called to testify,” Judge Chetty noted in his ruling.
Among the reasons the State cited for the delays were that it was hampered by Covid-19, load shedding and the fact that some witnesses were in the entertainment industry and could not spend the entire day in court.
In the end, Judge Chetty dismissed the application.
“Having carefully reflected on the nature of the delays, the complaint from the accused and the explanation tendered by the State, I am unable to conclude that a case has been made for an ‘unreasonable delay’ as contemplated in S 342A. It follows that there is no scope for any of the orders sought on behalf of the accused … I am not persuaded by the argument.
“This matter has already been adjourned to October 3, 2022. That has occurred by reason of the proceedings having been incomplete at the end of the previously allocated session in March 2022. This was not due to any shortcomings on the part of the State … while the application under S 342A fails, the accused are not left without redress. The State has committed itself to certain mechanisms which will be implemented for the remainder of the trial aimed at minimising the delays complained of by the accused … I make the following order: The application is dismissed.”
Mabuyakhulu, who was initially set to fight for re-election when the ANC KZN elective conference is held in July this year, did not respond when asked about where to from here after this ruling.
* This article has been updated.