Shelembe charged

2011-06-24 00:00

A SUBDUED Alpha Shelembe was sneaked into the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court yesterday before the public could become aware of his arrest in connection with the arson attack on the ANC’s Pietermaritzburg offices during the night of June 12.

He was later granted bail of R3 000 by magistrate Riaad Abrahams on condition that he may not have any sort of contact with former ANC driver Themba Mbona, who has been convicted and jailed for his part in the arson attack, which he claims to have carried out at Shelembe’s behest.

Chief prosecutor advocate Sagren Naidoo said the state did not oppose Shelembe’s release on bail because he is not considered a flight risk, nor is it likely he could interfere with the investigation or witnesses.

The investigating officer, Colonel Sam Naidoo later also confirmed that Shelembe has been “co-operative” during the investigation.

Shelembe (48) resigned earlier this week as deputy mayor of Msunduzi and relinquished his post as the treasurer of the ANC’s Moses Mabhida region following ongoing public protests.

These arise from criticisms that Shelembe was one of the ANC members who held public office previously when Msunduzi Municipality was brought to financial ruin.

He and his wife and sister are among seven accused facing trial in the regional court in connection with an allegedly corrupt property deal in 2003.

Shelembe entered the courthouse via a rear entrance.

On Tuesday he and members of his family escaped a crowd of protesters the same way, exiting the premises in the back of a prison van provided by police in order to prevent a confrontation when the three appeared in connection with the corruption case.

A calm but unsmiling Shelembe arrived at court yesterday accompanied by police investigators Colonel Naidoo and Warrant Officer Calvin Adimulan and his attorney.

The Witness was told Shelembe was contacted earlier yesterday morning and given the option to willingly surrender himself to police, which he opted to do.

The charge he faces arises from the allegations made by Mbona when he pleaded guilty last week to arson and said he set fire to the ANC offices on Shelembe’s instructions.

Mbona claimed in a statement to court that Shelembe promised to pay him R500 000 and offered him a permanent job at the ANC offices in exchange for setting the fire, but said he was never paid. He did not know why Shelembe wanted the offices burned.

Because Shelembe has a pending case of corruption, he was required by law to give evidence in support of his bail application before Abrahams yesterday.

However, he was not asked any questions relating to the allegations against him.

Shelembe told the court he has three wives and 10 children ranging from 26 to four years old, and said that since losing his employment he expects to survive on the income he derives from running a shop at his home in unit 14, Imbali.

Naidoo told the court that at this stage the only charge against Shelembe is one of arson.

He confirmed in evidence that documents and evidence recovered from the scene of the fire are the subject of forensic examination. That part of the inquiry is being investigated separately.

He also stated that there is “no allegation of attempted murder” arising from the arson attack.

The Witness spoke to court sources later who said the state can still add charges at a later stage if evidence to support allegations of other offences should emerge during the course of the investigation.

The case was postponed to August 18 for further investigation.

Thobani Ngqulunga reports that ANC activists, who are staging a sit-in at the ANC local offices, have welcomed Shelembe’ arrest and asked why he was allowed to appear in court before spending time in custody. The group’s spokesperson, Sibongile Mkhize, said they will continue their sit-in until the entire regional executive committee (REC) disbands, alleging REC members are mobilising people to remove them from the office and calling for the reinstatement of Shelembe.

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