Court gives Portia Sizani ultimatum in R1.2m ‘ghost’ teacher fraud trial

2014-08-29 15:02

Portia “Pankie” Sizani, has been warned by the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court that if she does not show up for her trial, she will face arrest.

Sizani (46), the wife of ANC parliamentary chief whip Stone Sizani, appeared in court for the 10th day today.

She faces 31 counts of fraud and money laundering for allegedly creating “ghost” teachers and pocketing their salaries when she was coordinator of the provincial education department’s Early Childhood Development unit.

The alleged offences occurred between 2009 and 2010, when Sizani allegedly falsified documents of Grade R teachers in and around Port Elizabeth and defrauded the department of more than R1.2 million.

Today, while postponing the matter to January 26 next year, magistrate Mputumi Mpofu warned Sizani to come to court on that date or face possible arrest. She is out on warning.

“Mrs Sizani you are warned to be here in court at 9am on January 26, failing which a warrant for your arrest would be issued,” said Mpofu.

The magistrate’s warning comes after the trial was postponed for a year due to Sizani’s alleged illness.

Earlier in the trial, Mpofu issued a warrant of arrest for a witness, Ntombikhaya Dinge, after she was called to court three times to no avail.

The matter was postponed after the defence argued that, apart from the two weeks set down for the trial, they did not have another two weeks between now and the end of the year to commence with the proceedings.

“The time for which this trial was set has lapsed and now we are obliged to find another suitable date,” said Mpofu.

Today’s proceedings began with state witness Bukeka Mbambisa telling the court that Sizani was “lying” that she did not intend to mislead anyone or defraud the department nor was she aware that money deposited to the witness (Mbambisa) unlawfully.

Mbambisa told the court that Sizani informed her that R16 000 would be deposited in her account from the department of education and instructed her (Mbambisa) to deposit R12 000 for the accused (Sizani) and keep the rest.

Mbambisa said this transaction was done after she had asked Sizani for a job as a Grade R teacher.

She said Sizani promised her the job despite the fact that she was not qualified.

“I deposited the amount of R12 000 in Mrs Sizani’s Standard Bank account as she had instructed me,” she told court.

But when asked by defence advocate Johan Wessels why she kept money she had neither worked for nor was entitled to, she said she was following Sizani’s instructions.

“At the appropriate time we will argue that you are the most evasive witness,” said Wessels.

Wessels accused Mbambisa of evading the questions and put it to her that she was an accomplice in whatever the state was alleging to have taken place.

Mbambisa also conceded under cross examination that she had lied when she told the police in her statement that she had worked for the R3 300 she was told to keep.

“I thought Mrs Sizani was doing the right thing by giving me that money. She was at the department and I was unemployed. I did not know she was breaking the law,” said Mbambisa.

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