All pending and fresh cases set down on the Port Elizabeth High Court’s criminal roll during the 21-day coronavirus lockdown period will be postponed, the court heard on Wednesday.
The decision resulted in 14 criminal cases — among them the high-profile Timothy Omotoso rape and human trafficking trial — being postponed on Wednesday.
This came after senior state prosecutor Mujaahid Sandan told judge Mandela Makaula that, following a directive from the judge president, no cases would be heard in the Port Elizabeth High Court.
“For all part-heard and fresh matters further dates will be arranged,” Sandan said.
The decision follows a circular sent out on Tuesday by Eastern Cape judge president Selby Mbenenge to the registrar’s offices of various courts, urging them not to set down any cases to be heard over the lockdown.
On Wednesday, Sandan told Makaula that he — along with fellow state prosecutor Liesel Landman and head of the Legal Aid Port Elizabeth high court division, advocate Jodine Coertzen — had contacted various counsels for accused persons standing trial to confirm the postponement dates.
Of the 14 criminal cases that were postponed, none of the accused were in court on Wednesday for various reasons, including getting them there from correctional facilities.
The facilities included St Albans prison where, according to Sandan, certain sections were not allowing prisoners out of the grounds at all.
Invoking section 159 of the Criminal Procedures Act (CPA), which provides for cases to be heard