Kimberley Magistrate Vernon Smith lambasted the defence for “unnecessary delaying tactics” in the trial involving the multimillion-rand lease agreement that was signed by the Northern Cape Department of Health for nursing accommodation at the JP Hugo hostel.
KIMBERLEY Magistrate Vernon Smith lambasted the defence for “unnecessary delaying tactics” in the trial involving the multimillion-rand lease agreement that was signed by the Northern Cape Department of Health for nursing accommodation at the JP Hugo hostel.
The trial could not proceed in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday as the only accused in the matter, Dr Dion Theys, wishes to have the charges against him reviewed.
The matter was set for trial from September 14-16.
Theys, the former acting head of the provincial Department of Health, was charged with contravening procurement processes as well as Section 86 (1) of the Public Finance Management Act after three lease agreements were concluded with JP Hugo Trading, amounting to R96 million.
He was previously released on bail of R30,000.
The legal representative for Theys, Kopano Mothibi, stated that her client intended to make representations to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
“If the application is not successful, we will bring the matter with the National Prosecuting Authority under review. This should not be misconstrued as a wilful disrespect of the court or an attempt to delay proceedings. The instruction to review the matter was only made after the pre-trial conference. There is no hard and fast rule to dictate that representations have to be made before pre-trial conferences are concluded,” said Mothibi.
She added that counsel for the defence were tied up with a matter in the Northern Cape High Court and were unable to attend the trial dates.
Smith pointed out that Theys first appeared in court following his arrest in March. “These matters should have been raised six months ago. In June, all representatives indicated that they were ready to proceed with the trial on September 9. It is only today that this new information is presented before court.
“I cannot postpone the matter for another two months so that the defence can decide on a way forward,” said Smith.
He believed that it was “disrespectful” to inform the court about the unavailability of counsel just a few days before the trial was supposed to start.
“Everyone has a right to a speedy trial including the accused and the State, which represents the people of the Province. High court matters should not take precedence as people will lose respect for the lower courts. All attorneys are officials of the court and are expected to abide by the rules.”
Smith added that representations made to the DPP and application to have the prosecution reviewed should have been concluded before the pre-trial conference.
The State prosecutor, advocate Isaac Mphela, pointed out that witnesses had already been subpoenaed to testify.
“How long will the review take? It is clear that this is nothing more than a delaying tactic and that the defence is ill-prepared. The leases on the charge sheet date back to 2014. The State is ready to proceed with the trial and the charge sheet has been finalised. I expect more from junior counsel and the accused is not a lay person, he is a qualified doctor,” said Mphela.
He explained that the State was prepared to examine the representation submitted as soon as it was received and make an objective decision. “However, this application was not expected after trial dates were assigned.”
Mphela advised that all representations be submitted to him personally, at least two weeks before the next court date, so that the State can apply its mind and respond in time.
The matter was postponed to November 8.