Pretoria – Legal representatives for the 42 accused in the fraudulent SAPS vehicle branding tender are calling for the state to finalise investigations without further postponements.
Court 16 in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court was filled to the brim as the accused appeared with their various defence teams.
State prosecutor Tilas Chabalala requested a postponement to next year citing the need for time to complete the forensic investigation, for the vast number of witness statements to be completed as well as police investigations which were outstanding to be furnished to the state.
One of the major reasons he said was that even though investigations stemmed from the Eastern Cape and many of the accused were based in Gauteng, there were delays in completing investigations due to the travel restrictions of the national lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said this was also due to the fact that the transactions were done in a number of provinces in the country.
The legal teams however blasted the state’s reasoning for the delays as they indicated police had been investigating the matter since 2017.
With many saying the drawn-out postponements had a negative impact on the livelihoods of the accused, in particular for those who were already on pension.
The legal teams said disciplinary hearings were underway for some of the officers, the outcomes of which would negatively affect their funds and ability to cope with the drawn-out court processes.
The defence teams similarly complained of being furnished with little information regarding the matter and that arrests were invasive despite investigators knowing full well where the accused worked and lived.
Many stated that the arrests were unnecessary as the accused were not a flight risk and could have easily been summoned to appear before the court.
Tshabalala said however it was not prudent to demand a speedy trial as the state had to exercise caution considering they were dealing with officials who allegedly colluded with suppliers to steal from the public funds.
He said the public was entitled to have the matter thoroughly investigated and dealt with in the court of law.
“We do not intend to delay court proceedings we all want it done, but if the circumstances require the state to apply for postponement then the court should be willing to entertain the application.”
The 42 accused include police officials, retired captains, and administration clerks stationed at the Supply Chain post in Silverton along with some suppliers.
They were alleged to have manipulated the procurement documents for the branding of police vehicles to the tune of R56 million. As well as cover quoting of police tenders valued at R29 Million in total.
The alleged incidents according to the Investigative Directorate happened more than two hundred times between the period of April 2016 and 2019.
The matter will continue following an adjournment.