The trial of two young men accused of the murder of former South African far right leader Eugene Terreblanche has been unexpectedly postponed by judges in Ventersdorp. Proceedings have been ongoing for two weeks.
No reason has been given for the postponement of the trial, which will now resume on January 30 2012.
It is not common for such an adjournment to be enforced.
It may, however, be speculated that revelations about the conduct of officers at the murder scene and the treatment of key evidence was in part responsible for the judges' decision.
Pathologist Dr Ruweida Moorad, who conducted Terreblanche's autopsy, has implied in the witness box that the murder scene may have been tampered with by police.
According to Moorad, fluid around Terreblanche's genitals that resembled semen was clearly visible in photos of the scene. It was, however, not present or identifiable at the time of the autopsy. She said it was possible that the fluid had been wiped off.
Moreover, no state pathologist was called to the scene. Moorad described this as 'highly unusual'.
Another witness, police officer Bobby Sephini, said that very little evidence was gathered at the crime scene. Fluid swabs were not taken, and samples of Terreblanche's clothing were left unexamined. This was also said to be against usual procedure.
These testimonies, coupled with the earlier revelation that a police officer at the scene changed his story under pressure from his superior, only adds weight to the defence counsel's argument that there has been malpractice or, at worst, institutional corruption.
It therefore seems likely that the suspension of the trial is to allow a fuller understanding of the integrity of the evidence presented, and to avoid jurors being given false impressions of evidential or testimonial reliability.
This, however, is pure conjecture on my part and no official explanation is forthcoming.
See these two articles for Think Africa Press' prior coverage of the trial and its developments.