/ 15 April 2008

Erasmus commission faces three new interdicts

The Erasmus commission is facing three new urgent interdicts to put its activities in Cape Town on hold, prompting commission chairperson Judge Nathan Erasmus to adjourn proceedings on Tuesday afternoon.

The interdicts are expected to be heard in the Cape High Court on Wednesday morning.

The commission was set up by Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool last year to probe the city’s own investigation of councillor Badih Chaaban. Rasool has since added a probe of Chaaban himself, and of the Democratic Alliance-controlled George town council, to its brief.

Returning from the lunch break on Tuesday, commission chairperson Judge Nathan Erasmus said that in view of these developments, it was only fair to stand the hearings down until ”at least 11am” on Wednesday morning to ”see what happens” with the interdicts.

The commission finally started hearing evidence from its first witness on Tuesday morning — Lesley Swiegelaar, head of the Cape Town metro police detective service.

Erasmus said there was ”more than a likelihood” that the commission would not hear further evidence on Wednesday.

The commission had yet to read the documents and therefore had not yet considered its own stance on the three applications. ”We stand adjourned until 11 o’clock tomorrow morning or until further notice,” he said.

The interdicts are being brought by mayor Helen Zille, representing the city; city manager Achmat Ebrahim; and the Democratic Alliance.

Application dismissed

Earlier on Tuesday, the commission had dismissed yet another application to put its proceedings on hold. The application was moved by Ron Paschke, junior counsel for Cape Town city manager Ebrahim, and certain city officials.

Paschke and his instructing attorney, Achmat Toefy, entered the court room while commission evidence leader Frans Petersen was questioning Swiegelaar.

Swiegelaar then stood down while Paschke moved his application for the commission to suspend its business until noon on Wednesday.

Paschke said his senior counsel, Ismael Jamie, was not available until May 5, and, because of the short notice period given for the hearings, he was not adequately prepared either. He said he could not attend the proceedings and prepare at the same time, and the prejudice of this had to be considered.

Erasmus adjourned the commission for about 20 minutes, before ruling that no prejudice was being suffered in the way the commission was proceeding. The evidence of all witnesses with a potential bearing on Paschke’s clients had been postponed until after Jamie’s return to proceedings on May 5.

Other counsel had also raised similar concerns about inadequate preparation and the matter would be dealt with as it arose, Erasmus said. Paschke’s application was therefore dismissed.

On Monday, Erasmus had dismissed three applications aimed at halting the commission’s business. One of these — brought by the city — aimed to suspend the commission pending the main application in the Cape High Court challenging the commission’s legality.