Bribery charges dropped against spin doctor

2012-11-24 11:15

Mabutho Sithole, former spokesperson for Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza, is off the hook for allegedly bribing City Press reporter Sizwe sama Yende – for now.

Acting Nelspruit magistrate Erwin Sithole – no relation to the former spin doctor – quashed the charges on technical grounds before the court could hear the merits of the case.

The magistrate ruled that the charge – Sithole was charged with corruption under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act – was too vague.

He also tore into the charge sheet, saying it was defective and did not contain enough information on the alleged offence for Sithole to answer to.

But prosecutor Mpho Doubada indicated that he would appeal the magistrate’s ruling in the province’s high court.

Sithole was charged with bribery in December 2010 after he allegedly attempted to bribe Sama Yende not to write a story of alleged tender fraud in the provincial agriculture department that happened while Premier Mabuza was the MEC of the department.

Mabuza became premier after the 2009 elections.

Sithole allegedly handed Sama Yende R5 000 in cash in Nelspruit instead of answering questions that had earlier been emailed to him on the alleged tender fraud.

Sama Yende took the money and handed it over to the police, who opened a bribery case.

Sithole was subsequently charged but never entered his plea to the charge, after his lawyer objected to the initial charges, sought more particulars and eventually argued for the case to be dismissed.

The defence had argued that paying a journalist to write or not to write a story was not per se a criminal act.

In his ruling for the case to be thrown out, Magistrate Sithole said it appeared the state was not even sure whether the alleged bribery was direct or indirect.

“Because, if it was direct the state should have simply indicated that it was direct. If it was indirect, the state should have simply said it was indirect.”

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