ANC offices fire: Alpha Shelembe walks free

2011-11-08 00:00

THE arson charge levelled against former Msunduzi deputy mayor Alpha Shelembe (48) was withdrawn without any fanfare in Shelembe's absence in the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court yesterday.

It was almost a replay of his first court appearance on June 23, when Shelembe was sneaked into the magistrate's court before the public became aware that he had been arrested and charged in connection with the arson attack on the ANC offices in Pietermaritzburg on the night of June 12 this year.

Withdrawing the charge before regional magistrate Chris van Vuuren yesterday, senior regional court prosecutor Johan Senekal said the reason was that when the only state witness in the matter was interviewed "it became apparent that there are no reasonable prospects of securing a successful prosecution" in the matter.

He said Shelembe's attorneys were notified about the decision by e-mail and telephone.

The Witness has established that the prosecution conducted an interview with former ANC driver Themba Mbona after Shelembe's appearance in the regional court last Thursday.

Mbona, who pleaded guilty shortly before Shelembe's arrest to having torched the ANC offices and fingered Shelembe as the mastermind, was expected to be the key witness in the trial against Shelembe.

Sources close to the investigation confirmed he has retracted his allegation that he acted at Shelembe's behest.

Mbona is serving a five-year jail term for his role in the arson attack, and the decision to withdraw the charge against Shelembe will not affect his sentence.

ingrido@witness.co.za

Related story: Withdrawal of arson charge a huge relief for Shelembe

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