Buffalo City mayor and her co-accused lose first round

2015-04-12 15:00

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They came with expensive lawyers, but Buffalo City Municipality head honchos, who face charges of fraud and money laundering related to the misuse of money meant for transporting mourners to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in 2013, failed twice to have the case dismissed.

Buffalo City executive mayor Zukiswa Ncitha; her deputy, Temba Tinta; council speaker Luleka Simon-Ndzele; senior councillor Sindiswa Gomba; ANC regional secretary Pumlani Mkolo; and Ondela Mahlangu, director in the mayor’s office; are accused of masterminding a scam that resulted in R5.9?million being siphoned off council coffers.

Also in the dock are Viwe Vazi, Zintle Nkuhlu, Dean Fanoe, Nosiphiwo Mati and their respective companies.

They are facing charges of fraud and money laundering in the East London Regional Court.

When the trial resumed on Tuesday, Advocate Laurence Hodes, SC – for Mkolo and Nkuhlu – was the first to raise an objection, pointing out a number of mistakes on the charge sheet.

He was supported by another prominent lawyer, Advocate Phillip Zilwa, SC, who has in the past represented Mandela’s grandson Mandla in his many court battles with family members.

The lawyers argued that the case be struck off the roll until all mistakes on the charge sheet are rectified.

Among their objections was that the state did not specify who faced which charge, or where and when each specific offence was committed. They also said they had been presented with four different versions of the charge sheet.

But Magistrate Sadia Jacobs ruled against them on Wednesday morning. She said the state had provided sufficient information on the charge sheet for the accused to plead. She ordered that the state fix the other mistakes highlighted by the defence.

On Thursday, the defence brought another joint application and asked the court to quash the charges because the state had failed to comply with the previous day’s order by Jacobs that the identified mistakes in the charge sheet be rectified.

That application, however, also failed when Jacobs ruled in favour of the state, ordering that the trial continue.

“I am satisfied that the charge sheet complies with the requirements as set out in the Criminal Procedure Act,” she said.

A disappointed Hodes told the magistrate that they would seek a high court application to review her ruling.

Jacobs adjourned proceedings to April 20.

Outside the courtroom, supporters of the accused sang in support of the arrested leaders.

Before proceedings began, supporters queued outside the court building, but many were unable to get seats inside the small courtroom.

After the matter was adjourned, the accused were whisked out of court in luxury 4x4s and German sedans, and their supporters made their way home in the minibus taxis that had brought them to court.

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