Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) Church leader Prophet Shepherd Bushiri has appealed the Pre-Trial of his fraud and money laundering case fraud and contravening the Immigration Act which has been pushed forward to October 16.
Bushiri and wife Mary appeared at court on Monday where the state failed for the third time to produce a witnesses.
The state in their submission said the witness could not be present in court for fear of contracting the novel pandemic COVID-19 and asked the case to be postponed for a year.
It said some of the witnesses are in isolation, including an Investigating Officer, who was supposed to take the stand.
The prosecution team also said that the pandemic has hindered their preparation for the trial, as they had not briefed all witnesses.
However, Bushiri’s legal team opposed the state’s application for such a lengthy postponement. The defense argued that the couple is entitled to a speedy trial.
They also argued that prolonged postponements are in violation of the accused’s constitutional rights.
The defense said on all occasions it had been the state that asked for postponement since the accused were arrested in February last year.
The team says this cannot be correct or fair on their clients as they have always availed themselves. They further argued that the court should refuse to grant the state postponement or should just strike the matter off the roll.
Following arguments from both sides, the court granted a pre-trial conference to be held on the 16 October.
The court says it has taken into consideration the state’s reasoning regarding application for postponement, as well as the defense’s argument opposing the application.
The court told the state to ensure that all is dealt with before the pre-trial conference so that the parties can agree on an earlier date for trial.
But updating his followers on Facebook, Bushiri said his lawyers asked for the case to be struck from the roll.
“No one asked for a Pre-Trial. I have instructed my lawyers to appeal and they have filed the appeal today. We await the date for the hearing of the appeal,” he wrote.
Bushiri said he is of the opinion that the hearing on his appeal will be made “Hopefully by Monday next week.”
The ECG leader has vehemently denied the allegations levelled against him throughout.
“One day justice will speak louder than ever! In God, I am rooted,” he said.
What happens during a pre-trial
According to Courts of South Africa website will usually take between 5 and 20 minutes.
The purpose of a pre-trial conference is to find out what facts or legal issues are in dispute; fully explore the possibility of dealing with the charge other than by way of trial; enable the length of the trial to be estimated as accurately as possible; decide if any evidence can be proved by affidavit (ie, by using sworn written statements of witnesses as opposed to oral evidence given in court) and if a trial cannot be avoided, ensure that it ultimately runs as smoothly as possible.