Challenges with transporting prisoners to court emerged in the Andile “Bobo” Mbuthu matter in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court in KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect normal court proceedings.
Magistrate Rajesh Parshotam ruled that the matter be postponed for a week while defense attorney Chris Gounden reaches out to officials at the Department of Correctional Services and the South African Police Service (SAPS) to have the six accused physically in court.
Gounden said there would be difficulty communicating with the six accused via video from Westville prison.
Prosecutor Krishen Shah did not oppose this. Parshotam said it posed a challenge because of Covid-19 and the level 4 lockdown.
“There are clear challenges with bringing the accused to court. During the over 50 days of the lockdown, not a single person was brought to this court from Westville prison.”
He said transporting people back and forth could compromise the already overcrowded Westville prison.
“If a person is brought to court physically, when they go back, they will have to keep them in isolation for 14 days. With overcrowding at Westville, that will be impossible.”
It also emerged that the families of the accused were recording the prosecutor.
“There is an accusation of intimidation of attorneys. Protection will be given to them if family members are filming them to intimidate them. They will be investigated by the SAPS and that person may be excluded from future court proceedings,” said Parshotam.
The magistrate added they would in future deliberate a possible conflict of interest in the case.
This came after the court learnt that the first accused Mlungisi Thabete, 28, employs his co-accused.
Andile Nhleko, 27, Mncedisi Mzobe, 27, Siyanda Msweli, 26, Lindani Ndlovu, 22, Malusi Mthembu, 27, are the other five who appeared via video connection in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court.
Sixteen-year-old Mbuthu’s remains were found on Friday 8 May in a bag filled with bricks, which was dumped in the Wewe River on the outskirts of the Tongaat area, north of Durban.
The crime is alleged to have taken place at the well-known Magagula Lounge in Hambanathi and stemmed from accusations of alcohol theft.