ANC, allies in full support for Amigos

2011-08-01 11:37

The ANC and its allies have come out in support of its KwaZulu-Natal leaders who today appeared in court as new accused in the so-called Amigos fraud and corruption case – expressing their “concern’’ about the series of leaks in the run-up to their arrest.

ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala compared these leaks with the conduct of the Scorpions before their disbandment, and denied any internal plot in the ANC or its allies to nail the two – economic affairs MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu and legislature speaker Peggy Nkonyeni.

Both have served as ANC provincial treasurer and are members of its provincial executive committee.

Prior to their arrest, ANC circles had been abuzz with claims that they were being targeted to take them out of the ANC’s provincial leadership, which will be re-elected ahead of its national conference in Mangaung next year.

Yesterday, the DA also called for the provincial Premier, Dr Zweli Mkhize, who signed off on the project which is at the centre of the scandal, to step down.

Mkhize, who may be called as a witness by the state, was not present at court.

The MEC, the speaker and former provincial health head Dr Ronald Green-Thompson, who is now a consultant, appeared briefly in court today and were granted bail. Mabuyakhulu and Nkonyeni paid R100 000 each while Green-Thompson was granted bail of R40 000.

They will join the other accused in the case, who were arrested last year, in court on January 20 next year.

During this appearance, a date will be set for trial in the high court because of the corruption charges, which carry a minimum sentence of 15 years in jail.

Both Mabuyakhulu and Nkonyeni appeared relaxed as they arrived in court with a large number of supporters, including provincial secretary Zikalala, his Cosatu and SACP counterparts and most of the province’s cabinet, which last week passed a resolution backing them.

There was a massive police presence inside and outside court, with streets cordoned off to allow access for the mass of bodyguards and official vehicles accompanying the MECs who were present.

An indictment outlines the charges against the entire cast of accused, which included the three, billionaire businessman Gasto Savoi and former provincial treasury boss Sipho Shabalala.

Savoi allegedly paid a bribe of R1 million to the ANC via Shabalala and his wife Ntombi, Savoi’s business partner, during 2005 in return for normal tender procedures being lifted to allow him to sell the province water purifiers and oxygen at massively inflated prices.

Savoi was paid R44 million from the province’s poverty alleviation fund in 2007.

He is charged in a simlar case in Northern Cape, with the state claming he defrauded government of a total of R180 million.

Other accused include another former health head, Dr Busi Nyembezi, lawyer Sandile Khuboni, whose firm’s account was allegedly used to launder the bribes, and procurement staff from the Health and Local Government departments.

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