An order restricting the media from attending the Eugene Terre’Blanche murder trial next month will be granted by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in the next few days, Judge Joe Raulinga said on Thursday.
The media and family of the slain Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) leader will only be allowed to follow proceedings in an adjoining room with a closed-circuit television (CCTV) link to the court.
This was in order to protect the identity of one of the accused, who is a minor, said Raulinga.
Only 16 journalists and four of Terre’Blanche’s family members would be allocated seats in the CCTV room.
The other seats and standing places would be occupied by court officials and police officers.
Raulinga wanted to include in the order the names of the family members who would attend the proceedings.
Dispute over wages
These, he said, would have to be submitted to him or the registrar of the high court as soon as the Terre’Blanche family attorney was told who would attend the trial.
“Once we have the names, one cannot replace the other. It should be the same people attending,” said Raulinga.
The 60-year-old white supremacist leader was bludgeoned to death, allegedly by two of his farm workers, 28-year-old Chris Mahlangu and the minor, who cannot be named because of his age.
The attack followed an apparent dispute over wages.
In April last year, Media 24, Independent Newspapers, the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) and e.tv brought an application seeking authorisation for the public and media to attend the entire trial, while keeping the identity of the boy secret.
It emerged during court proceedings on Wednesday that there was some confusion over the wording in the initial order.
The Media Monitoring Africa group, which made an application on Thursday to have the order rescinded, understood it to mean that the media would be removed from court when the 15-year-old minor started testifying.
However, Media 24 and Sanef interpreted it to mean that journalists would be present in court during the testimony.
“The ambiguity is unfortunate. What that paragraph in the order meant was that every person will be in the CCTV room, not in court. We will amend it so that it is not confusing,” said Raulinga.
Other wording issues were also pointed out by the National Prosecuting Authority.
While the murder trial has been set down from May 3 to May 13, it could be delayed if media houses decide to appeal against the amended order.
Raulinga welcomed the possibility of an appeal, saying it was an applicant’s constitutional right to do so.
“An appeal could mean a postponement to the trial, but the judgment in this matter will be ready by May 2,” he said before instructing counsel to submit the amended draft order to his chambers.
“If I’m happy with it, I will then issue it,” he said.
The order would state that, should the presence of the media in the CCTV room impede the rights to privacy and fair trial, journalists and the family would be directed to leave the room. — Sapa