Feared ANC leader out of prison

2011-03-12 00:00

PEOPLE from around Nongoma in northern KwaZulu-Natal are living in fear following last week’s release of an ANC leader who was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of raping a 14-year-old.

The conviction of Nongoma-Mahlabathini ANC sub-regional chairperson and local taxi operator Mbangiseni Sputla Mpungose was overturned last Thursday by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Mpungose was convicted in 2007 by the high court in Vryheid of the 2004 rape of Celukuphila Mlambo.

However, the girl could not testify as she, her mother and a cousin were gunned down before the trial.

Mpungose was arrested in 2005 after local taxi operators and Inkatha Freedom Party members claimed to have been sent by him to negotiate paying 10 cows or R10 000 to the girl’s family as damages.

It was claimed in court the family rejected this.

Although Mpungose was charged with both the family murders and Celukuphila’s rape, he was acquitted of the murders and convicted of rape after Judge Nick van der Reyden had ruled the victim’s sworn statement admissible as evidence.

During the two-year trial the judge and prosecutor Cyril Selepi had to be assigned police bodyguards because of fears that their lives were in danger, as Mpungose was the most feared taxi operator and political figure in the area.

Speaking to Weekend Witness after his release last week, Mpungose said he is seeking legal recourse as his businesses have collapsed as a result of his incarceration.

“I had three shops before my arrest, but now there is only one and it’s collapsing. I was also operating eight taxis, but when I came out I discovered that I was left with only three. I now have to start my businesses as a result of my unfair incarceration.”

He blamed his arrest and conviction on a political conspiracy “by my political and business rivals”.

In the early 2000s Mpungose was once accused by IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi in a speech in Parliament of fanning political violence in the Zululand region.

Mpungose accused Buthelezi of abusing his parliamentary privilege to issue defamatory statements.

In 2000 Mpungose was arrested for the murder of Nongoma’s IFP mayor Joseph Sikhonde, but was acquitted in the case.

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