Lost in translation — Koko Kusile corruption case delayed by lack of interpreter
Courtroom G in the Middelburg magistrate court resembled the set of a poorly directed slapstick film as a comedy of errors unfolded on Tuesday morning.
The accused in the R2.2-billion Kusile corruption case had expected to hear judgment in an inquiry into whether the NPA should be granted more time to investigate the matter.
Instead, regional magistrate Stanley Jacobs told the court that he planned to question the investigating officer.
The case involves charges of corruption in the R2.2-billion control and instrumentation tender which was won by Zabb, the local division of the Swedish-Swiss firm, ABB.
Among the accused are former acting CEO and head of generation at Eskom, Matshela Koko, his wife Mosima and his stepdaughter Koketso Aren.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Ex-Eskom boss Matshela Koko’s corruption case still not ready for trial, magistrate demands answers from NPA
Businessman and former SA Local Government Association chairman Thabo Mokoena is also among the accused, along with lawyer Johannes Coetzee. Five companies have been charged along with Watson Sebataolo Seswai, Thato Choma, Sunil Vip, Gopal Shamji Kambi.
Read more in Daily Maverick: How a shell company and family car purchases helped Eskom’s Kusile contractors launder millions of rands
On 4 September, the NPA said it needed more time to investigate the case, even though Jacobs had previously ruled that there would be no further postponements. He opted to hold an inquiry into the delay in terms of section 342(a) of the Criminal Procedure Act. The act empowers a magistrate or judge to investigate any delay in the completion of a case and decide on whether the delay is unreasonable. The outcome could result in the case being struck off the roll and as a result of the seriousness of the matter, Jacobs requested to interrogate the investigating officer directly.
“I indicated (to the prosecution) that there are some issues that I want to raise with the investigating officer. I said they must arrange for the investigating officer to be present today. I need to engage with some matters that are in his affidavit. And also there are some matters that the defence has raised,” said Jacobs.
The defence was taken by surprise, having only brought notebooks to record the outcome and diaries to record the next court date.
“The notification we received was simply to provide dates for availability. No mention was made of your worship engaging the IO or any other witness,” said defence attorney Shaun Abrahams, who is representing Thabo Mokoena and the companies associated with him.
After consulting their clients, the defence attorneys agreed that the case should proceed but not before noting their dissatisfaction with the prosecution for not informing them of Jacobs’s request.
Botched in translation
It seemed like the case would then proceed only to be halted by the lack of an interpreter. The investigating officer, who cannot be named for safety reasons, is Afrikaans speaking and initially said he was willing to testify in English. Jacobs asked whether he was sure.
The investigating officer said he could proceed but admitted that when reading some of the court documents submitted in English, he had to “google some words”. The matter was settled, an interpreter was needed. But none was immediately available, seemingly due to a double booking.
The court was adjourned for the staff to search for an interpreter. There was speculation that a swap could be done with the adjacent Court F. Jacobs joined the search himself, offering to speak to the magistrate next door. After several minutes he returned, seemingly triumphant, saying the interpreter was on his way.
But the Afrikaans speaker didn’t arrive and eventually, the case was postponed, again, to 5 October.
The accused are out on bail and will return to court for the next hearing. DM