Witness who fled protection says he feared for his life
A state witness who fled from witness protection just before he was meant to testify in an alleged gang-related double murder case has been found guilty of contravening sections of the Criminal Procedure Act, which deal with witnesses who fail to show up in court.
He walked away from his witness protection accommodation on Tuesday.
The man – whose name cannot be published – was to testify in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Wednesday in a case of six alleged gangsters.
On Thursday, judge Glen Goosen lambasted the man’s no-show, saying he had wilfully interrupted the trial by a day or more, and had wasted considerable resources.
“The criminal justice system cannot function if witnesses, who are obliged to testify, are allowed to decide whether they should appear in court,” he said.
“It is for that reason that the law imposes an obligation upon persons to testify.
“They are compelled to testify when called to do so.”
Another witness was shot dead in February.
“The evidence presented by the witness is that he did not attend [court proceedings on Wednesday] because he was afraid for his life.
“He stated that he considered his life to be in danger by reason of the fact that another witness, who I understand, was due to testify in this matter, was shot dead,” Goosen said.
“There are circumstances that the law recognises which would excuse a person from testifying in certain circumstances, but that is not what this inquiry is about today.
“In this instance, the [murder] trial has had to be interrupted by a day or more, and considerable resources had to be put to the task of establishing the whereabouts of the witness.”
Prosecutor Mujaahid Sandan said: “The media always reports that justice is delayed – in this circumstance it is delayed because of a witness.
“The expenses incurred run into the thousands [and] the clear message we want to send out to the community is that you must obey the law.
“This act of lawlessness is not to be tolerated.”
Goosen said: “A fine would not appropriately convey the seriousness in which the court views this matter.
“In my view, direct imprisonment is appropriate.
“In this circumstance, I impose the following sentence – a sentence to a period of three months’ imprisonment which is wholly suspended for a period of one year, on the condition that you [the witness] are not again found convicted [of the same offence].”
The man was expected to testify against alleged gangsters Damian “Oom Jan” Kammies, 24, Warren “Wakka” Steyn, 25, Deilon Makoppa, 32, Christiano “Twakkie” Whitebooi, 20, Kurt Bosman, 30, and Ashton Calvert, 26, who face a string of charges, including murder and kidnapping.
It is alleged the men murdered Deon Matthys and Mohammed “Mielie” Gamieldien Abdullah in November 2016.
Goosen postponed the trial to May 6.
He told the witness: “You are, and you remain, a witness in this case.
“You are not excused and are to remain in attendance until this matter is adjourned.”