Drugs verdict overturned

2010-09-10 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG businesswoman Joyce Komane expressed her delight yesterday after learning that the high court has set aside her convictions and effective 18-year jail sentence for racketeering, drug dealing, money laundering and forgery.

High court Judges of Appeal Anton van Zyl and Jerome Mnguni described the evidence against Komane as “tenuous”, and said the state had failed to establish her guilt as a matter of certainty.

Komane said she is grateful to her family who supported her financially in her fight for justice.

She added that she has already instructed her advocate, Fanie Slabbert, to approach the high court to win back her assets, which were restrained by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) as alleged “proceeds of crime”.

The assets that the AFU took control of include a flat, a house in Pelham and five cars, including a BMW and an Audi, said Komane.

She is now also entitled to get back her bail money of R40 000.

Komane said her businesses suffered severe setbacks as a result of the prolonged trial, which dated back to 2005.

She was found guilty of six charges last year arising from her association with Ramjini Chetty (40), nicknamed Pietermaritzburg’s “drug queen”.

The two women admitted that they were friends, but Komane denied in her evidence that she ever supplied Chetty with drugs.

Regional magistrate Chris van Vuuren convicted Chetty of running a drug-dealing enterprise from two properties in Queen Street and sentenced her to an effective 24 years in prison.

Komane was convicted of supplying Chetty’s enterprise with drugs such as mandrax and cocaine.

However, handing down judgment yesterday judges Van Zyl and Mnguni said the evidence against Komane was largely circumstantial.

State witnesses who implicated her as a drug supplier based their evidence on “hearsay and strong suspicion”, the appeal court found,

However, the court said suspicion does not amount to proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

* Two drug runners connected with Chetty’s drug enterprise — Surychand Maraharaj (55) and Bongi Dlamini (26) — are serving sentences of 12 years’ imprisonment for their involvement in the sale of drugs from Chetty’s premises.

Chetty herself elected not to testify in her defence.

She has not appealed against her convictions or sentence.

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