Thieving magistrate loses appeal

2013-05-03 00:00

FORMER Pinetown magistrate Mbongeni Mathe, who stole R10 000 from a deceased estate, is going to jail after losing his appeal in the Pietermaritzburg high court.

In a reserved judgment, judges Jacqueline Henriques and Kevin Swain confirmed both Mathe’s theft conviction and his original sentence — with one slight alteration — being that he must repay the complainants in the case R10 000 instead of R11 000.

This was due to the fact that one of the state witnesses — Cynthia Jili — who gave evidence that she gave Mathe the extra R1 000 — had suffered a stroke and didn’t finish giving evidence.

The appeal court found that her evidence should have been disregarded by the trial magistrate.

The judges said there was otherwise no reason to interfere with Mathe’s sentence of three years’ imprisonment, one year of which was suspended on condition that he repays the money he stole.

In terms of the court order, he has to serve one sixth of the sentence in jail, after which the remainder can be converted to correctional supervision.

Judge Henriques said the appeal court was of the view that Mathe’s version ought to be rejected as being “so improbable that it could not be true”.

In his testimony, he had tried to blame either a court clerk or one of the representatives of the estate for the theft of the money, but this was rejected by the appeal court.

According to the state witnesses, Mathe had received R15 000 from Jili, which formed part of a deceased estate.

He had distributed R5 000 between family members who were beneficiaries, and ordered that the remaining R10 000 be taken to the cash hall and paid into the Guardians Fund, pending final distribution.

The money, however, disappeared.

The judges said an evaluation of Mathe’s evidence had “revealed many untruths and inherent improbabilities”, and they found that he’d “tailored” his evidence.

The appeal court also disagreed with submissions by Mathe’s advocate, Jimmy Howse, that because so much time had lapsed since Mathe was sentenced in July 2007, it would be unjust to send him to jail.

The judges said it was not a case where there was no explanation for the inordinate delay, which was due partly to the fact that the appeal record was incomplete and had to be reconstructed.

They said certain of the adjournments had been granted at Mathe’s instance.

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