Defence: No evidence against Shelembe

2013-05-03 00:00

THERE isn’t a “tittle of evidence” to convict former uMgungundlovu district councillor and ex-Msunduzi deputy mayor Alpha Shelembe — or his co-accused — of corruption, fraud and money laundering.

This was the submission made earlier this week by advocate Jerome Brauns SC when he asked regional court magistrate Jaco Jordaan to throw out the case against his clients before their defence even begins.

Brauns represents Shelembe, his wife Joyful, sister Nelisiwe and a former bodyguard, Thembinkosi Xaba.

Similarly, the court was asked by Simphiwe Moloi, counsel for KZN businessman Lucky Moloi, to find that there was no fraud or corruption involved on his client’s part in the purchase of MIB House by the uMgungundlovu district municipality in 2003.

Instead, he said, it was clear from the records of the municipality that the executive committee (Exco) decided to buy a building that would provide parking; that the municipal manager gave reasons for not continuing with the purchase of the first building that was chosen; that an “excellent business case” was put forward by the municipal manager before the decision to buy MIB House was taken; and that it was Exco that had appointed Moloi to the task team to facilitate the sale after the decision to buy was taken.

He also submitted the municipality “received value for money” as a result of the deal.

Opposing the application, state advocate Bulelwa Vimbani (together with Makhosi Mthembu) submitted that the case against the group is based on circumstantial evidence from which the court can draw inferences.

While agreeing that the district municipality did get “value for money” when it bought MIB House for R6 850 000, she said the point was that it was due to the persuasion and “misrepresentations” by councillors, including Moloi and Shelembe, that the municipality decided to buy the building. In return, the councillors wanted commissions.

“The very people who were supposed to be protecting the municipality were doing the opposite,” Vimbani said.

She said it “follows” from the fact that money was distributed in the various bank accounts of the group that they were aware of its origins and were guilty of laundering the money.

She submitted the evidence of the late Neville Watts, the estate agent who engineered the deal, made it clear that the accused asked for, and received, commissions.

Brauns and (Simphiwe) Moloi, however, urged the court to be cautious about Watts’ “hearsay” statement, which was admitted into evidence, as well as the testimony by MIB House seller Gavin Breetzke.

They said Breetzke was a so-called “204” witness who was warned he could face possible charges arising from his testimony, and said his evidence couldn’t be relied on.

Brauns said there was no corroboration for either man’s evidence.

He submitted further that the prosecution had failed to disprove the defences raised by the group at the outset of their trial.

All of them had denied any wrongdoing.

Jordaan will announce his ruling today.

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