THREE weeks have been set aside in the Cape Town High Court for Judge Chantal Fortuin to read her 800-page judgment in one of the most complex and chilling cases ever heard in South Africa.
The long-awaited judgment – believed to be the longest in South African legal history – follows a four-year trial that has been fraught with intimation and the murder of at least six witnesses.
Notorious gang boss George “Geweld” Thomas and 18 co-accused are facing 166 charges ranging from murder‚ attempted murder‚ racketeering‚ to possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition.
Thomas is the alleged kingpin and apparently holds the rank of inspector in the notorious 28s prison gang. The trial has been running for the past four years in the Cape Town High Court‚ during which 26 000 pages of evidence have been filed and 164 witnesses called.
Fortuin began her judgment on Monday and by Tuesday had acquitted Thomas of several charges.
Thomas and his “foot soldiers” were arrested in 2008 and have been in custody since. But six witnesses were slain allegedly at their behest and the group has since been charged for the killings.
Lawyer Martin Hood said an 800-page judgment was unusual. He said the reason for such a lengthy judgment could be the complexity of the case.
“It is a very long judgment and extraordinary‚” said Hood. “If you look at the Oscar Pistorius judgment‚ the judge took two days and it was a comprehensive judgment. But you have to bear in mind that appeals in criminal judgments are frequent and the judge had to be thorough.”
National Prosecuting Authority Western Cape spokesman Eric Ntabazalila on Tuesday declined to reveal the total number of witnesses who had been killed.
“It is not appropriate to say how many witnesses were killed because we were unable to indict the accused on some cases where we had no witnesses left‚” said Ntabazalila.
“They were however indicted for the murder of six witnesses or potential witnesses. Subsequently‚ two witnesses were killed but I must add that we are hesitant to speak about it because of the possible negative effect on the public. We do not want members of the public who give information or testify to live in fear.”
– The Times, RDM News Wire