'Tenderpreneur’ not off the hook

2015-01-11 15:00

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The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has rejected Durban businesswoman Shauwn Mpisane’s application for a permanent stay of prosecution.

The NPA also wants Justice Minister Michael Masutha to grant it permission to hire a senior counsel to guide prosecutors when Mpisane is recharged.

Mpisane’s lawyers wrote to the national director of public prosecutions, Mxolisi Nxasana, in August last year complaining about the conduct of the police and the prosecution in her fraud trial.

In the letter, which City Press has seen, Mpisane’s lawyers complained to Nxasana that she was being maliciously prosecuted because of her wealth.

In January 2014, the state withdrew charges against Mpisane in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court, prompting friends and supporters to celebrate outside the court building.

Bottles of Champagne were popped open as Mpisane and her husband, Sbu, left the court building and entered their white Rolls-Royce, which was parked outside the court entrance and guarded by armed security, who also accompanied the throng of supporters.

At the time, the NPA in KwaZulu-Natal said the charges had been withdrawn because the state couldn’t submit a forensic investigation report to the court on time.

Mpisane’s Zikhulise Cleaning Maintenance and Transport cc was accused of government tender fraud amounting to millions of rands.

City Press has learnt from three sources in the NPA that Nxasana forwarded Mpisane’s letter to Specialised Commercial Crime Unit head Lawrence Mrwebi – who last week rejected the representations.

“The Mpisanes will be notified about the outcome, which paves the way for the reinstatement of the charges,” said a senior NPA official, who asked not to be named.

Mrwebi refused to comment on his decision and referred all questions to NPA spokesperson Nathi Mncube.

“We are not commenting on the matter,” he said.

Mpisane told City Press in a text message that she wasn’t aware the NPA was in the process of reinstating the charges.

“I don’t know anything about that. I haven’t received official documents, so it will be difficult to respond,” she said.

When the charges were withdrawn last January, it was amid a prosecutorial storm: Mpisane’s lawyers laid a complaint of misconduct with the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society, the Society of Advocates and the regional court president against lead prosecutor Meera Naidu.

They accused Naidu of deliberately withholding evidence from Mpisane’s defence team and coaching a state witness, using transcripts from another witness’ testimony.

Meanwhile, City Press has seen a letter

from Nxasana to Masutha asking that a private senior counsel be appointed to guide investigations and lead the reprosecution of Mpisane and Zikhulise Cleaning Maintenance and Transport.

The letter, dated August 14 2014, reads: “[The] matter involves serious charges of fraud, forgery and uttering. There are 55 charges in all being preferred against the accused.”

Nxasana wrote: “The defence team includes instructing attorneys, junior counsel, namely [Advocate] Jimmy Howse, as well as at least one [possibly two] senior counsel, all of whom are highly qualified, seasoned and very experienced legal practitioners, which presents a very formidable opposition for even two experienced prosecutors, let alone one who is currently allocated to the case.”

Also in the letter, Nxasana said that Advocate Rajesh Choudree had been provisionally approached and accepted – at a fee of R20 000 per trial day, and R2 000 per hour for consultations and preparations.

Attempts to get comment from Choudree were unsuccessful.

The justice ministry also did not respond to requests for comment about the possibility of a private advocate joining the Mpisane prosecution.

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