CALEDON – It’s Thursday morning at the Caledon regional court and the five witnesses in the case against Kleinmond’s alleged perlemoen boss, Senegalese national El Mamadou Ndiaye aka Elias are present and ready to testify. The problem is Elias is not there. His probably expensive advocate, Elzaan Bester is there though and she profusely apologises on his behalf. Something about a death in the family, probably nonsense but whatever. It is clear that Me Bester expected the case to be postponed and duly informed her client. He therefore did not bother to come. The Magistrate is not terribly impressed and warns that if Mr Ndiaye and his co-accused do not arrive before lunchtime, a warrant for their arrest will be issued. They’ve already moved on. Next up is a rape case. Such is life in our courts these days.
It is interesting how Mr Ndiaye, obviously with the help of his very capeable advocate, almost always manages to slip the noose. Tuesday’s case stems from an incident in Pringle Bay in 2020. Poachers were leaving the town in two vehicles, a small Ford Bantam bakkie and a Toyota Fortuner. There were three men and sacks of perlemoen on the back of the Bantam.
Fisheries inspector JP Kruger was coming from the opposite direction. He made a U-turn and gave chase. He could see the sacks on the back of the Bantam and obviously suspected it was illegal perlemoen. It was now a high speed chase with the Bantam flying over the speedbumps. The three guys at the back were thrown about like rag dolls. Despite the high speed at which they were travelling, the Fortuner with its tinted windows managed to get alongside the fisheries bakkie and more than once tried to force it off the road.
At the T-junction leading to Kleinmond, Kruger took a decision. He rammed into the Bantam. Well, more of a rather firm nudge. The small bakkie whirls around. As soon as it comes to a stop, the three guys on the back of the bakkie jumps off and scatter to the wind. Kruger gets out of his bakkie and shoots out two of the Bantam’s tyres. Up to this point there is no disputing the facts. There is dashcam video of everything, which the Herald has actually seen.
What apparently happened afterwards is the following: the people in the Fortuner then transfer most of the perlemoen from the Bantam to the Fortuner. One of the people allegedly involved is Ndiaye aka Elias. In fact, it is alleged that he is the driver. The Fortuner then speeds away. Charges are laid and Elias is arrested. The dependable Advocate Bester is as always there to support her client. They apply for bail.
During the bail hearing, which stretches over several days, Magistrate Nolan Lendor does a good job of thoroughly weighing the evidence. The Herald was there the entire time. The prosecutor and the investigating officer, a member of the anti-gang unit, makes a compelling case and Lendor eventually denies Elias and his co-accused bail. A not so happy Elias goes back to prison, but not for long.
Just before Christmas 2021 the industrious Advocate Bester arranges another bail hearing for Elias supposedly based on new evidence. We, to this day, do not know what this supposed “new evidence” was. The investigating officer was as surprised as us at learning that Mr Ndiaye was once again a free man. He was apparently never even informed that there was to be a new bail hearing. Interesting.
After Tuesday’s postponement the trial will now take place on June the 7th. That’s if the docket doesn’t go missing, which has been known to happen in cases involving Mr Ndiaye.
In the meantime, Mr Ndiaye has also finally been able to slip another noose – one I was quite sure he wouldn’t be able to escape, but he did, once again with the indefatigable Advocate Bester by his side.
In 2016 Ndiaye and two local policemen allegedly hijacked another poacher’s stash. It was quite the plan. The policemen would stop the poacher and confiscate his load. They would then hand in some of the perlemoen as evidence but the rest would be sold, and if I remember correctly, they would each pocket R20 000. Things did not quite work out that way. They went bad pretty quickly for the two policemen and they were eventually kicked out of the force. The one policeman decided to plead guilty and did his time. Ndiaye and the other policeman fought on.
It seemed a clear cut case. I mean, one of the policemen had turned state witness. Except it wasn’t. In 2019 the Herald learnt that the entire court docket had gone missing from the Hermanus court building – apparently it vanished into thin air. After the Herald reported on the matter, an investigation was launched and we understand a clerk of the court was fired. Luckily the investigating officer from the police’s anti-corruption unit had kept his notes and copies of at least some of the important documents. The docket was more or less put together again, but it seems the damage was done. As soon as the news of the missing docket broke, Advocate Bester had apparently started to arrange a plea deal for her prize client. Ndiaye eventually walked away with a five year suspended sentence. The case against the other policeman is continuing.
Our Mr Ndiaye, with the trusted Advocate Bester by his side, is turning into quite the Houdini.