The judge presiding over the trial of former Durban mayor Zandile Gumede and her co-accused in the Durban Solid Waste (DSW) fraud case expressed her frustration at the state prosecution’s failure to present original evidence.
Judge Sharmaine Balton admonished senior state prosecutor Ashika Lucken for submitting a copy of a document instead of the original, as required by court procedure. The judge remarked that Lucken’s lectures on presenting evidence seem to fall on deaf ears.
Gumede and her co-accused, including individuals and companies, face multiple charges related to corruption, fraud, money laundering, and contraventions of financial and municipal management acts. The charges stem from an irregular DSW tender worth over R300 million.
The court heard the testimony of Raymond Rampersad, the former head of eThekwini DSW, who was called to testify about the involvement of accused number 4, Robert Abbu, in the initiation of the DSW special project/tender. The project aimed to address waste collection and illegal dumping issues in townships and had a budget of R53 million.
Senior state prosecutor Lucken guided Rampersad through the approval processes for the R53 million contract, which was sanctioned by the council in April 2017. This contract is part of the larger R300 million fraud case.
During cross-examination, Rampersad admitted that he could not recall whether he had drafted the original report that was later approved by the council through the Human Settlement executive committee. However, he asserted that since he had signed it, he must have been aware of its contents at the time.
The lack of original evidence and the challenges faced during cross-examination raise concerns about the strength of the state’s case against Gumede and her co-accused. The defence may argue that the prosecution’s failure to produce original evidence undermines the credibility of the entire case.
The Zandile Gumede DSW fraud case took a dramatic turn as the judge criticized the state prosecution for not presenting original evidence. With the trial underway and the testimony of state witness Raymond Rampersad, the defence will likely seize upon the lack of original evidence and recall difficulties to challenge the prosecution’s case. As the trial progresses, it remains to be seen how these issues will impact the outcome.