Shelembe case: dead man may yet testify

2013-04-23 00:00

THE prosecution wants an affidavit by deceased local estate agent Neville Watts to be admitted as evidence in the corruption trial of former uMgungundlovu district councillors Lucky Moloi and Alpha Shelembe and their co-accused.

Watts, who died earlier this year, was expected to be a key state witness in the case after cutting a deal with the prosecution and pleading guilty to the charges.

He was sentenced to a fine of R50 000, half of which was suspended, plus correctional supervision during a “secret” court appearance in Durban. Another former councillor and co-accused in the case, Themba Zungu, also died before the trial got under way.

State advocate Makhosi Mthembu yesterday submitted that it was in the interests of justice for the court to admit Watts’s statement as evidence in the trial even though it is hearsay, as he had played a vital role in the sale.

The application is, however, vigorously opposed by defence lawyers Jerome Brauns SC and Simphiwe Moloi.

Regional court magistrate Jaco Jordaan adjourned the hearing until tomorrow to give them an opportunity to prepare detailed argument.

Moloi and Shelembe face allegations that they colluded with others to persuade the district municipality to buy the MIB building in the CBD for use as offices and parking space at an “inflated” price of R6 850 000.

In return, it is alleged, they each received R200 000 in commission. Both men deny any wrongdoing.

Their three co-accused, former bodyguard Tembinkosi Xaba, Nelisiwe Shelembe, Shelembe’s sister, and Joyful Shelembe, his wife, have pleaded not guilty to charges of money laundering arising from the corrupt transaction.

Earlier yesterday Pietermaritzburg attorney Keith Hobson, whose firm was involved in finalising the sale agreement (and whose brother living overseas was a part-owner), testified that he had never considered there was anything wrong with the agreement, as it was approved by the executive committee and full council.

Hobson said he was not involved in negotiating the sale price, as he never had a mandate to do so.

He was also never told that the purchase price was altered to increase the commission payable, he said.

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