Surprise plea bargain in MIB case

2011-09-06 00:00

BUSINESSMAN and former councillor Lucky Moloi and five co-accused charged with corruption arising from a 2003 property deal involving uMgungundlovu District Municipality were taken aback yesterday to learn that former accused estate agent Neville Watts made a secret appearance in a Durban court last week, where he pleaded guilty and that he is now prepared to give evidence for the prosecution.

This disclosure by state advocate Rema Mahabeer in the regional court in Pietermaritzburg took lawyers acting for Watts’s former co-accused — Lucky Moloi, ex-uMgungundlovu district councillor Themba Zungu, former bodyguard Thembinkosi Xaba, former Msunduzi deputy mayor Alpha Shelembe, his wife, Joyful Shelembe, and sister, Nelisiwe Shelembe — “by complete surprise” yesterday.

The Witness was not able to confirm specific details of the plea entered into by Watts yesterday, but it is understood that he was fined R50 000 and sentenced to a period of correctional supervision.

The accused are charged with having colluded to persuade the uMgungundlovu District Municipality to buy the MIB building in Langalibalele Street in 2003 at an inflated price of R6 850 000.

The state alleged that Watts, Zungu and Alpha Shelembe shared a R1 million “commission” between them.

The other accused are alleged to have helped launder the money to conceal its origin.

The property in question was bought by the district municipality for office and parking space.

The case was yesterday postponed until September 27 by regional magistrate Jaco Jordaan.

It is expected that a new trial date will be set on that day.

Sapa reports that Shelembe yesterday also appointed new lawyers, who pleaded for more time to prepare for the trial.

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