Leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Julius Malema and co-defendant Adriaan Snyman’s illegal handover of a firearms case was postponed by a day in the East London Magistrate’s Court after the prosecutor resigned.
Malema faces five charges, including illegal possession of a firearm, for firing a rifle during the EFF’s fifth anniversary celebrations at Sisa Dukashe Stadium, Mdantsane, in 2018. Snyman faces two charges.
The incident was caught on camera with the footage showing Malema allegedly unloading an automatic assault rifle during the celebrations.
The court heard that the new prosecutor, appointed to replace attorney Elna Smith, needed time to consult with witnesses and review the evidence and statements.
The defense denounced the delays and opposed the state’s request for a postponement. Malema’s lawyer, lawyer Lourence Hodes, called for the case to be dropped.
“Every accused has the right to a fair trial that is tried without reasonable delay. Your Honor, tomorrow is March 1, this incident occurred in July 2018 and the trial has not yet begun.
“We had prepared, consulted and booked airline tickets and accommodation. Everything is arranged and we have cleared our agendas for this week … there is also an expert at the court,” he said.
The defense, Hodes said, was not warned about the changes regarding prosecutors until Friday.
He added that the state knew that Smith had resigned and should have made timely arrangements for her replacement. He asked the court to drop the case because of the “unreasonable behavior” of the state.
“It would be unfair to delay the case, given that it is a politically charged case. It took the state more than a year before they could bring this case to court.
“We have at least 135 statements… so it’s not easy to just confer today and move on to a file of this nature tomorrow, it’s beyond his control that he’s in this situation, it’s not personal but it is also unfair to force the accused to wait,” Hodes said.
Snyman’s legal representative indicated to the court that he agreed with Hodes’ arguments, adding that he was not convinced the new prosecutor would be ready to move on quickly.
“We find this unacceptable for the NPA to suddenly switch prosecutors, days before the trial, allegedly. I think it’s sad. If you will allow a postponement until tomorrow, I ask that there be no further delays.”
The court has postponed the case until Tuesday.
“This is the reality brought to court this morning… I believe there are quite a few documents in this case and I will not make any recriminations here.
“The defense is financially committed to this week, witnesses from all over Pretoria are here in court. The court allows the state to consult… let’s all move on tomorrow [Tuesday]”I trust that the trial will begin,” the court said.