Mandela funeral scandal: State to fix defects on charge sheet

2015-04-08 13:05

The East London Regional Court today dismissed an application to withdraw charges against Buffalo City Municipality top leaders accused of pocketing R5.9 million meant for memorial service events for former president Nelson Mandela in 2013.

Buffalo City Municipality executive mayor Zukiswa Ncitha, her deputy Temba Tinta, council speaker Luleka Simon-Ndzele, senior councillor Sindiswa Gomba, ANC regional leader Pumlani Mkolo, Ondela Mahlangu – a director at the mayor’s office – and business people Viwe Vazi, Zintle Nkuhlu and Dean Fanoe and their companies are charged with fraud and money laundering.

Yesterday their lawyers tore into the state’s case, accusing the prosecution of making various amendments to the charge sheet, and asked East London Regional Court Magistrate Sadia Jacobs to either withdraw the case or strike it off the roll and reinstate it only when the state had fixed all the defects.

Arguing for the application yesterday, advocates Laurence Hodes (SC) and Phillip Zilwa (SC) questioned the credibility of the state’s case and asked the court to show its displeasure by sanctioning it harshly.

But Pretoria-based senior state advocate Diniso Ketani said the defence should be mindful of the fact that this was a serious trial and that “taxpayers’ money” had been stolen.

“We are talking about taxpayers money here … this is a serious case of money laundering, where money continued to be transferred at the instruction of one of the accused to the accounts of the other accused even after arrests had been made,” he said yesterday.

But Magistrate Jacobs had the last word when she delivered her decision this morning after considering the various arguments put before her.

In the end Jacobs ruled that the trial would go ahead and ordered the state to rectify errors that had caused the defence’s unhappiness and hand over a correct charge sheet to the defence by 1pm today for trial to begin tomorrow morning.

Jacobs said that although she believed the charge sheet provided by the state constituted substantial facts upon which all legal defence teams could prepare for trial, the mistakes admitted by the state were careless, irresponsible, and brought the office of the public prosecutor into disrepute.

The trial continues tomorrow at the East London Regional Court.

“I can’t comment on the merits of the case but we have been ordered to be before court tomorrow morning for the resumption of the trial and I shall take instructions from my client, deputy mayor [Temba Tinta]”, said advocate Matthew Mphahlwa after the ruling.

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