Mpisane drama at court

2012-10-24 00:00

A CONFRONTATION between photographers and supporters of wealthy housing contractor Shauwn Mpisane was as spicy as it got on yet another day of delays in her protracted fraud trial.

Avoiding the prying eyes of the media at court has become a pastime for Mpisane and her husband Sbu.

Yesterday, proceedings in the Durban Magistrate’s Court were briefly interrupted when Mpisane refused to enter the dock, fearing her picture would be taken.

Magistrate Blessing Msane had given the media permission to photograph her, but only when court was not in session.

He adjourned and left briefly for defence advocate Jimmy Howse to speak to his client. Mpisane then entered the courtroom while Msane was still out, and the photographers pounced.

One supporter from the public gallery charged an Independent Newspapers photographer and an altercation broke out.

The photographer kept yelling, “You can’t do that, you can’t do that,” as the man grabbed at her camera.

Prosecutor Meera Naidu intervened and ordered the man to retreat, while Howse also joined in to calm tensions.

Order was restored after about 15 minutes and Msane returned and repeated his housekeeping instructions to the media.

Howse then began a formal application asking Msane to investigate what the defence contends have been unnecessary disruptions allegedly caused by the state.

His application was expected yesterday after Naidu had asked to join two charges from a separate matter in the Pinetown Regional Court to the main trial, in which Mpisane faces 119 charges — 118 of them on various counts of tax fraud.

Howse read into court an affidavit by Mpisane’s lawyer Phila Magwaza, which laid out a timeline of “unreasonable delays” the defence says it has experienced since charges were first lined up against Mpisane and her company Zikhulise Cleaning, Maintenance and Transport CC, last May.

Mpisane’s legal team want Msane to refuse any further delays and to push ahead with the trial on the 119 charges to which the housing boss has pleaded not guilty.

They have objected to the prosecution’s “obstructive and delaying tactics”, which have seen charge sheets amended and evidence reluctantly forthcoming, arguing their preparation for the trial has been hampered.

Magwaza’s affidavit accused the state of abusing its rights while prejudicing Mpisane’s. Part of the application seeks to keep the two Pinetown charges separate, as well as any additional counts that may still come.

The application gave a little more insight into Mpisane’s defence, which Howse insisted has been known to prosecutors since the beginning.

Mpisane is accused of doctoring invoices so as to inflate her company expenses, thereby reducing her profit and any tax liable on dividends she had declared for herself.

But her legal team will argue that an assessment by the taxman for the financial year in question — 2008 — affirmed her claims that the real expenditure was way more than the amounts on the forged invoices. Hence, there was no need for her to engage in fraud.

It is this version which Howse said the state continues to ignore. “It is submitted that the failure by the state to investigate these issues goes beyond negligence because it is the result of a conscious decision to ignore the accused’s version regarding the genuine invoices and to pursue a case based only on the fictitious ones,” Howse said.

Msane adjourned until Friday when Naidu will have a chance to respond to the application.

Later, The Witness snapped a picture of Mpisane and her husband outside the court after a polite request was given the thumbs up.

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