What is Mrs Sizani’s mystery illness?

2014-08-24 06:00

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Portia “Pankie” Sizani’s trial is finally under?way in Port Elizabeth’s Commercial Crimes Court – but details of the illness that delayed the trial for a year remain a mystery.

Sizani (46), the wife of ANC chief whip Stone Sizani, faces 31 counts of fraud and money laundering.

On Monday, she pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

The trial was meant to start last August, but was postponed because she was allegedly ill.

But the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) admits it doesn’t even know the nature of her illness nor if it justified the year-long postponement.

“All we know is that she submitted a medical certificate to the magistrate which suggested that she was unfit to stand trial at the time. Unfortunately we do not know the nature of her illness and can’t comment on that,” said NPA regional spokesperson, Tsepo Ndwalaza.

Ndwalaza would not comment on why the NPA had not been given access to Sizani’s medical records to confirm her condition justified the postponement, and referred questions to the NPA’s national spokesperson Nathi Mncube.

Mncube said that even when a doctor’s note was provided in court, it sometimes didn’t provide details about what was wrong.

He said the information should be available on the charge sheet and in court records.

But late last year, Eastern Cape radio station Algoa FM reported that magistrate Louis Claasen had been told by the defence that Sizani couldn’t attend court proceedings because of a “medical condition” which couldn’t be disclosed to the public or the State.

The defence also asked the court to “uphold her privacy and dignity” by not revealing her medical status.

The defence then presented a medical certificate to Claasen, who postponed the matter.

The station also reported at the time that state prosecutor Ronelle Brink had told the court she wasn’t sure whether to oppose the matter or not because she had no details of Sizani’s alleged illness.

“If it was a mental illness there were other routes,” Brink told the court then – but to this day no further details have emerged.

City Press was unable to access the court records and Sizani herself declined to comment when approached in court on Friday.

“I can’t comment now, maybe at a later stage,” she said.

Her lawyer, Roland Meyer, also refused to comment.

On Friday morning Sizani’s defence team, led by advocate Johan Wessels, asked for another postponement.

It argues that it hasn’t had enough time to go through some state witnesses’ statements.

Brink protested, but magistrate Mputumi Mpofu granted the postponement.

The case continues tomorrow.

Sizani, who worked at the provincial department as its coordinator for Early Childhood Development centres, seemed calm throughout proceedings this week.

She arrived most days in flashy designer outfits with matching handbags, and took notes during people’s testimony.

Her husband Stone was MEC for education in the Eastern Cape until 2002. He was not at his wife’s side in court this week, and could not be reached for comment.

The state claims that Portia Sizani defrauded the department of more than R1.2 million between 2009 and 2010 by allegedly creating “ghost” teachers for Grade R schools in Port Elizabeth.

She allegedly falsified “teachers’” documents and pocketed their salaries. A number of primary school principals who testified this week supported the state’s version.

The alleged scam was busted through an anonymous letter sent to the department of education, and Sizani was arrested in December 2012.

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