Ban on electronic equipment in Gumede case challenged
The media is challenging a court ban against the use of cellphones, laptops, and video and audio recordings in the corruption trial of former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede and 21 others.
Judge Sharmaine Balton previously gave a blanket ruling that, during the evidence of several municipal officers in the current leg of the trial, the media could only take written notes, reports News24.
Reporters have to leave their laptops and cellphones in a cardboard box outside the KZN High Court (Durban), where security officials, guard the devices.
Representing a number of broadcast media houses, Max Du Plessis, SC, lodged an opposed urgent application challenging Balton's 28 July order.
Du Plessis said it was unfair for the order to have been made without asking the media to make representations or ‘be part of it’.
He emphasised that continuous publicity and reporting were for the public benefit.
Gumede remains a public official in the KZN Legislature. She is a longtime senior ANC member and one of the party's most popular politicians.
The case involves allegations that R320m in public funds were siphoned out of the Durban Solid Waste (DSW) unit in the eThekwini Municipality.
Du Plessis emphasised that it was an infringement on the media, which disseminates information for the public, to be limited to just handwritten notes.
He argued that it was not just about the rights of media houses, but the right of South Africans to know the process of the judiciary.
There is also a significant advantage to video recordings, Du Plessis argued.
‘Television is the best picture. Compared to written reports it is a significant advantage. Journalists here have been denied the tools of the trade.’
Du Plessis added that a blanket ruling on the current thread of witnesses did not protect them.
'Only media is muzzled, but everyone in court can identify who the witness is. There is a targeted approach to the media. Whoever is in that court is not barred from identifying any witness. There are other means of securing witnesses that are less restrictive.’
He added that the media didn't want to deny the right of protection for witnesses.
Article disclaimer: While we have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide final legal advice as facts and situations will differ from case to case, and therefore specific legal advice should be sought with a lawyer.