Question NW385 to the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services

Share this page:

25 March 2024 - NW385

Profile picture: Mthethwa, Mr E

Mthethwa, Mr E to ask the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services

(1)With reference to his reply to question 4137 on 5 January 2024, wherein he requested the details of the case that has been postponed more than 75 times, which has been confirmed as Case: T1619/2021 D928865, what reasons led to the specified case to be postponed for multiple times; (2) what is the total cost of the specified postponements to date; (3) what steps has his department taken (a) to mitigate against these undetectable contributors to the wasteful expenditure by the courts and (b) against officials who allegedly simply report to work to postpone cases for errors committed by the State?


1 The reasons for postponements are the following:

  1. The case referred to above is the State v Johannes Mmola and four others as evidenced in Rabie Ridge CAS 106/05/2021 where the accused are charged with murder and malicious damage to property. According to courts records, the case was postponed 59 times not 75 times. Please see the attached annexure A.
  2. The record of the court proceedings was painstakingly scrutinized by the Chief Prosecutor, East Rand and the majority of the postponements were as a result of absent legal representatives or the changing of legal representatives
  3. After various remands for address verification and the sorting out of legal representation for the accused, the bail application commenced on 06 July 2021. Various other remands occurred during the course of attending to the bail application.
  4. On 08 September 2021 the bail application proceeded where the investigating officer gave evidence in opposition to bail being granted. Bail was denied on 22 September 2021 for the first four applicants and the matter was postponed for further investigations. The matter was eventually remanded to 11 October 2021 for the post-mortem report and photo album.
  5. On 08 November 2021, Adv Mudau came on record, handing in a legal brief from Mgiba Noxolo Incorporated. Only accused 5 was at court and the matter was remanded to 12 November 2021 for the other accused’s presence and for Adv Mudau to hand documents to the prosecutor with the intention to apply for bail on new facts.
  6. Following various postponements, the application for bail on new facts for accused 4 was refused on 10 February 2022. Adv Mudau appeared for accused 2-5. The court allowed for a final remand for further investigations to 28 April 2022.
  7. On 28 April 2022, Adv Mudau indicated his intent to bring an application on new facts for accused 5 who was absent as he was hospitalised. The court was then informed on 05 May 2022 that accused 5 had passed away and the case was postponed to 23 June 2022 for the death certificate and instructions from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). On 23 June 2022, the case was transferred to the Tembisa Regional Court for 27 June 2022 under case number TRC228/2022.
  8. On 14 July 2022, Adv Mudau informed the court that he had not received financial instructions and the family of the accused requested a postponement until 29 July 2022 to raise the funds.
  9. Adv Mudau was absent on three subsequent court appearances whereupon the accused decided on 12 August 2022 to apply for legal aid on 12 August 2022.
  10. Various postponements occurred in relation to the sorting out of legal representation. On 21 November 2022 it was confirmed that Ms Ledwaba will represent accused 3 and Judicare will be appointed to represent accused 1 and 4. Case was postponed to 08 December 2022 for this purpose. On 14 December 2022 and 16 January 2023, the matter was again postponed for the appointment of Judicare attorneys.
  11. The court was eventually able to postpone the case till 07 March 2023 for disclosure purposes. On 07 March 2023, the matter was set down for trial at the Tembisa Regional Court for 25 May 2023.
  12. On this day, the legal representative for accused 2 was not available as he was attending an urgent bail application in the High Court.
  13. The matter was subsequently postponed to 11 September 2023 for trial. All within the control of the prosecution will be done to ensure that the matter proceed on 11 September 2023.
  14. On 11 September 2023, the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.
  16. On the same day, the first state witness, who suffers from a kidney disease, collapsed whilst in court and was rushed to hospital. The matter was rolled over to 12 September 2023 to potentially proceed with the matter, should this witness be available.
  17. On 12 September 2023, the witness was still indisposed. The matter was postponed to 27 October 2023. On this date, the evidence in chief of the first state witness was concluded and the legal representative of Accused 1 started with cross-examination which was not finalised on 27 October 2023.
  18. The matter was postponed to 16 January 2024 for continuation of the cross-examination of the first state witness.
  19. On 16 January 2023, the third legal representative commenced with cross-examination of the first state witness. At this time, the witness requested a postponement due to ill health and having to be hospitalised.
  20. The case was postponed to 08 July 2024 for the continuation of the cross-examination of the first witness.

2. The costs of individual criminal cases are not quantified. The cost of each case is part of the operational costs to run the Courts on a daily basis. The National Prosecuting Authority takes the management of court time seriously, and where prosecutors are guilty of misconduct in causing a case to be postponed unnecessarily, disciplinary/ remedial actions are taken. The only costs that the department incurred is R560.00 that relates to travelling expenses of the witness.

3. (a) Reply to question 1 provide various reasons for postponements. The question raised relating to consequence management does not have regard to the multifarious reasons for postponements which would have been granted by the Presiding Officers. The majority of postponements were not fruitless and wasteful expenditure and thus consequence management is not appropriate for any Legal Aid SA Official save for the double briefing by our Judicare Practitioner, Adv Mhlari, on 23 May 2023, which will be raised with the practitioner for consequence management in accordance with the Legal Aid SA ‘s Judicare accreditation terms and conditions.Save for the few occasions when the State applied for postponements for justified further investigation, the State has always been available and prepared to proceed, but due to external contributing factors, as set out above, the matter was postponed.

(b) From the record of proceedings and information supplied by the prosecutor, there is no indication of any undue delays occasioned by the State.