Durban’s blingest court battle

2012-06-16 16:37

Well-connected couple in the dock for tax fraud charges totalling R4.7m

When Durban’s queen of bling Shauwn Mpisane arrived at the city’s Z Regional Court on Monday to face more than 100 tax fraud charges, the city’s trial of the year began.

The court teemed with journalists, cops, Mpisane supporters and various hangers on. Cleaners and security guards popped in for a peek.
 
Axed national police commissioner Bheki Cele took a few hours off from his own misery and flew in to support the woman he describes as his “daughter’’.
 
Mpisane (37) is a hugely politically connected businesswoman whose mother, Flora Mkhize, was an ANC veteran and councillor in the city.

Durban pays Mpisane’s Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport CC more than R17 million a month – even after she lost out on a R120 million housing contract.

Her husband S’bu is an equally connected former metro policeman.

They are among the city’s biggest spenders.

The parties at their mansion, fashionably far north of the Umgeni River, are the toast of Durban’s new money.

This week saw a string of postponements, in-court spats and delays.

The State had recently altered the charge sheet.

This enraged the Mpisanes.

Their heavy-hitting legal team, headed by Wim Trengove SC, brought an application demanding further detail about the charges and specifics of the Mpisanes’ alleged roles.

Specialist tax prosecutor Meera Naidu’s argument that the application was merely a ploy to delay the trial didn’t convince magistrate Blessing Msane, who gave the state until Thursday to deliver.

Thursday saw an overnight adjournment – and a little heave-ho between a press photographer and some of their supporters.

On Friday, Mpisane pleaded not guilty to tax fraud charges and questioned the validity of a charge related to her running the company while serving a suspended sentence on a 2004 tax fraud charge.

Mpisane, rocking aquamarine sunglasses and jewellery, beaded braids, a black and silver dress and high fashion shoes, told the court that Zikhulise, which mainly works large-scale low-cost municipal housing contracts, “took off’’ in 2006 after a “small beginning’’ in 2004.

The company had “grown in leaps and bounds’’, she said, with revenue spiralling from R34?million in 2006 to R120?million in 2008.

This, Mpisane said, forced her to employ accountants, with one, Kashal Reddy, forging invoices without her knowledge.

Reddy has been convicted of forgery and is a State witness.

Msane adjourned the case to October 22 for trial.

Early in the week, the Mpisanes played cat and mouse with the contingent of photographers, sneaking in and out of court without being snapped.

But on Friday S’bu Mpisane, wearing an immaculate pearl grey suit and lilac tie, unexpectedly distributed copies of his wife’s plea to the media.

The couple walked in and out of the main entrance, smiling for the cameras.

In an interview with City Press, he defended their lifestyle.

“Yes, we do enjoy a certain lifestyle, but I don’t know that it’s that extravagant.

“We choose to enjoy certain things, but we do so here at home.

“There are so many business people who quietly jump on a private jet and spend millions overseas, out of the public eye and nobody says a word.

“We spend – and most of the time far, far less than the media says – but we do so here at home and the money stays in the local economy.”

Mpisane pointed to the family’s charitable works in and around Durban, which have seen them sponsoring feeding schemes, educating orphans and disabled children and providing indigent people with houses.

“We are aware of the need for social responsibility as well and we do that, but that is not what gets publicised,’’ he said.



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