Date for Nkonyeni

2009-06-13 00:00

LEGISLATURE Speaker and former KZN Health MEC Peggy Nkonyeni and her two co-accused will stand trial on corruption charges from August 13 to 18.

This was decided yesterday by regional magistrate Chris van Vuuren, despite “reservations” expressed by Scorpions advocate Hein van der Merwe who urged the court to give the prosecution another three weeks in which to expand its investigation. He said this might result in more charges or more accused being joined in the case.

Van der Merwe said the state was only handed an affidavit it was awaiting from Cape businessman Dr Gaston Savoi on Thursday and had not had time to fully investigate.

While the content of the affidavit was not disclosed fully in court, it emerged that the names of three “very important people” — former Health Department heads Professor Ronald Greene-Thompson and Dr Busi Nyembezi as well as former head of the KZN Treasury Sipho Shabalala — are contained in the affidavit. It was not clear if they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

In reply to a question from advocate Kessie Naidu, SC, for Nkonyeni, Van der Merwe agreed it is possible that after further investigation other people could be charged.

He dismissed any suggestion that Nkonyeni, Henry Lindelihlwe Mkhwanazi (38) and Mduduzi Ntshangase (44) might be “improperly” before court, and said the names of all three appear in Savoi’s affidavit or the annexures to it.

He also revealed that the affidavit makes reference to “two payments of R500 000” as well as to a “water purification scheme”, which may be significant and requires further investigation.

Mkhwanazi’s attorney, Mvuseni Ngubane, said the state is creating the impression that the R500 000 payments spoken of were “corrupt payments”, but on the contrary, the affidavit clearly stated these were legal payments.

The defence were not opposed to a postponement for trial, but objected to any delay for further investigations on grounds the accused would be prejudiced financially.

The case concerns the Health Department’s purchase of ultra-sound equipment from Mkhwa­nazi’s Rowmoor Investments for an inflated price of R1,5 million in 2007.

In exchange for allegedly influencing the purchase, Nkonyeni allegedly received R20 000 and accommodation at Savoi’s five-star Steenberg hotel in Constantia.

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