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Lost in translation — Koko Kusile corruption case delayed by lack of interpreter

Lost in translation — Koko Kusile corruption case delayed by lack of interpreter
Former Eskom executive Matshela Koko speaking to his lawyers while his wife Mosima watches on during an adjournment in the Middelburg specialized commercial crimes court on Tuesday. 03 October 2023. (Photo: Themba Khoza)

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


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jaqueline Perkes says:

    Comedy of errors. WTF.

  • Graham Nelson says:

    Another deployee soon to get off the hook because of the inept or intentionally sloppy SAP “investigators”. There will not be one big fish state capture-comrad convicted … in case he or she spills the beans.

  • Gregory Scott says:

    Purposeful bungling of these cases will be a travesty of justice.

  • Geoff Krige says:

    This case has been around for years. The USA has already completed its case against ABB and issued a very stiff fine. This smacks of deliberate bungling by ANC cadre investigators and/or prosecutors to get their ANC cadre Eskom buddies off the hook. State capture continued at tax payers expense and electricity users frustration

  • Paul Savage says:

    Is Shamila Batohi an ANC cadre? If not, why is she just so useless?

  • Johan Buys says:

    Reverse Stalingrad : Pretend to investigate and prosecute loyal comrades long enough, the courts will strike the case off the roll. Former prisoner zuma would be mighty impressed!

  • Now they’re not even trying to hide how full of kak they are. 🥲

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    I no longer buy the incompetence defense. Our criminal justice system appears to be extremely good at shielding pretty obvious criminals from any sort of consequences other than a bit of spending on lawyers and people to lose dockets and such.

  • Vincent Britz says:

    Not a single ANC government department will give up any of their comrades. Doesn’t matter what department it is, they all corrupt right down to our legal system. That’s why crime is up, you have a better life as a criminal as your rights are more important than a law abiding citizen of this country. The ANC government is the biggest Gang/Mafia organization in the whole of SA.

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