Cabinet slams ‘media trial’

2011-07-22 00:00

THE KwaZulu-Natal cabinet has come out in support of MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu and speaker Peggy Nkonyeni, condemning what it called a “trial by media” over their pending arrests.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was criticised for its role in the affair and the provincial cabinet is to write to Justice Minister Jeff Radebe about the conduct of his officials. A cabinet statement said it is highly irregular and “mischievous” that persons are named in the media by the prosecuting authorities before they appear in court.

It said this is an invasion of an individual’s constitutional rights to dignity and to a fair trial.

Warrants of arrest have been issued for Mabuyakhulu, the MEC for Economic Development, and Nkonyeni in connection with an ongoing fraud and corruption case.

Mabuyakhulu, who was treasurer of the ANC at the time, is alleged to have accepted a R1 millon donation on behalf of the ANC from Uruguayan businessman Gaston Savoi, who was awarded a R45 million tender for water purification plants for the Health Department. Nkoyeni was MEC of health at the time.

News of their pending arrest emerged when the acting director of public prosecutions for KZN, advocate Simphiwe Mlotshwa, said he had signed the warrants.

NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga told a Durban newspaper on Wednesday that the prosecution team is ready to proceed and the matter has been handed over to the Hawks to proceed with the arrests.

Yesterday Mhaga told the Witness to speak to Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela. When contacted, Polela said the Hawks do not tdiscuss warrants of arrests until people have been arrested.

Yesterday rumours flew that the arrests were to be carried out and journalists went to Mabuyakhulu’s office. However, it turned out that he was away in Cape Town. Nkoyeni travelled to London on Wednesday to attend a Commonwealth parliamentary conference.

Nkonyeni previously stood trial in another corruption case involving allegations that she received kickbacks in the irregular purchase of a mammogram machine.

In that instance, too, news of her pending arrest before the trial was leaked to the media.

In the end the warrant was not served and she and her legal representative were asked to appear in court. The case was later withdrawn, with no reasons given.

In its statement the provincal cabinet supported Mabuyakhulu’s decision to write to the NPA querying the irregular handling of the matter.

It also endorsed a statement issued by Premier Zweli Mkhize earlier this week that criticised media speculation that the saga has to do with power struggles within the ANC.

The cabinet statement concluded, “We regard the matter as very serious and feel it is an orchestrated manoeuvre that seeks to undermine the work of this government and create an impression that we can no longer work together. That is not true.”

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