Trial date set for Mabuza's spin-doctor
Eric Mashaba & Masoka Dube
Mbombela - Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza's former spin-doctor, Mabutho Sithole, will only stand trial next year after the corruption case against him was again postponed, this time to allow the defence to brief the newly hired advocate about the case.
Sithole, 39, appeared in the Nelspruit Magistrate's Court on Monday on corruption charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty.
The case was postponed to March 7 and 8 next year for trial. Sithole is out on R6 000 bail.
In October the case was postponed for the defence to study the docket.
At the time national prosecution authority (NPA) spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said the NPA was disappointed about the postponement as the case was supposed to go to trial on October 10, following a number of earlier postponements.
Sithole has been accused of giving City Press journalist Sizwe Sama Yende R5 000 in an attempt to prevent him from publishing a story about tender corruption involving R230m at the provincial department of agriculture, rural development and land administration.
Premier Mabuza was the department’s MEC at the time the alleged corruption took place.
Sithole handed himself over to the police on January 13 after learning a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Meanwhile, the public service commission (PSC) has ruled that Sithole's appointment as a media liaison officer was irregular.
PSC deputy chairperson Phelele Tengeni said Sithole was irregularly appointed Mabuza's spokesperson on July 21 2009 without proper procedures being followed and that he was then appointed to the more senior position of senior manager of community liaison and research, also in the premier's office.
The PSC recommended that Mabuza take disciplinary action against Director General (DG) Jacob Rabodila.
However, Rabodila and Mabuza wrote back asking the PSC to reconsider its findings, to which the PSC responded.
"Our final ruling is contained in a response sent to Rabodila and Mabuza," said Tengeni.
Rabodila told African Eye News Service that the final ruling had been referred to the state attorney for advice.
"We will make the ruling public once the state attorney has advised us on a way forward," he said.
The DG has previously confirmed that Sithole was still at work despite the findings of the PSC.
He further explained why he decided to assign Sithole to functions of a different post following his removal as the premier’s spokesperson.
"After interviewing Sithole I didn't find any grounds on which to suspend him. I decided to give him additional function at the premier’s office because his contract allowed me to do that.
"I would have been wrong if I suspended him while the [court case] was still pending,” said Rabodila.