The oft-delayed trial of three former Aurora Empowerment Systems directors accused of polluting a key water source, will kick off with a pre-trial hearing on 25 February 2020 in the Springs Regional Court, reports Fin24.

The trial of Khulubuse Zuma, Zondwa Mandela and Thulani Ngubane will take place from 18-25 June and 23-29 July 2020 due to the unavailability of their legal counsel for two consecutive weeks in one month.

The three politically-connected accused are expected to plead at the pre-trial conference. They, together with Raja Zainal Alam Shah, face charges of polluting the Blesbok Spruit, while heading the now failed Grootvlei Mine, near Springs.

Zuma, the nephew of ex-President Jacob Zuma, was Aurora's former chair.

Mandela, late President Nelson Mandela's grandson, was the mining group's ex-MD.

An amended charge sheet lists three counts against the trio and removes Shah's name, as he is believed to be in Malaysia, while the NPA seeks an extradition order against him. The previous charge sheet listed five counts against them, which prosecutor Advocate Connie Erasmus said were duplications.

Zuma, Mandela and Ngubane now face charges for unlawful water usage, between October 2009 and May 2011 for allegedly discharging underground mine water into the Blesbok Spruit. They are also accused of 'significant pollution' by allowing chemically untreated water into the wetlands. They also face a count of failing to comply with a directive to treat the underground mine water at the Grootvlei Mine.

Magistrate Nkhensani Moila was forced to intervene several times as the NPA clashed with Mandela's new legal counsel, Advocate Kenny Oldwage, imploring the parties to 'behave like adults' and not to repeat their submissions.

Zuma and Ngubane are represented by attorney Pranav Jaggan.

According to the Fin24 report, Oldwage said there was a lack of evidence contained in the two updated lever arch files they received on 31 October from the NPA. Moila said the defence 'can't decide what's in the docket; if the case is weak, it's to their benefit'.

She told Erasmus that she would not allow any further postponements and if the state is not ready for trial, they must withdraw the charges. She also warned that she would not allow a 'trial by ambush' by introducing new information that is not contained in the docket.

Erasmus insisted that the state is ready for trial. He admitted, however, that the wrong body had investigated the case and the Hawks should have been assisted by water and environmental authorities.

He also accused Oldwage of making misrepresentations and lying to the court.

Full Fin24 report