Nkonyeni ‘took a kickback’

2009-06-02 00:00

IN exchange for unlawfully influencing the purchase of an ultra-sound machine for an inflated price in 2007, former KZN Health MEC Peggy Nkonyeni allegedly received a “minimum” reward of R20 000 and free accommodation at a five-star hotel.

The money was allegedly deposited into Nkonyeni’s bank account on August 13, 2007.

This is alleged by the state in its charge sheet before the Pietermaritzburg regional court, where Nkon­yeni (47) and two co-accused — businessman Henry Lindelihlwe Mkhwanazi (38) and Mduduzi Ntshangase (44) — appeared for trial yesterday.

Regional magistrate Chris van Vuuren granted a state request to postpone the trial until June 12 in order to obtain a fresh affidavit from a “crucial witness”.

Van Vuuren rejected the vigorous objections by the defence, who urged him to strike the case off the roll and force the state to re-charge the accused after it has its “house in order”.

He said the request by Scorpions prosecutor Hein van der Merwe was not unreasonable as new information had only come to light five weeks ago and Van der Merwe satisfactorily explained why the state could not get hold of the affidavit in time.

He said he was mindful of the cost implications to the accused if the case was postponed, but striking the case off the roll was likely to cause longer delays.

Van der Merwe told the court he needs to obtain a fresh affidavit from Dr Rodrigo Savoi, of Intaka Holdings and owner of the Steenberg boutique hotel, after it emerged during the course of an unrelated police investigation that Savoi had more information to offer, he said.

Van der Merwe said he believes the information Savoi has is crucial to the case and might even lead to a further charge being added against the accused. Savoi’s affidavit is being drafted by a senior counsel.

He admitted in response to a question from advocate Kessie Naidu SC, who represents Nkonyeni, that Savoi might be regarded by the state as an accomplice, but said he can only make an assessment after he has seen the affidavit.

Nkonyeni and Mkhwanazi both face charges of corruption; Mkhwanazi and Ntshangase are charged with fraud and Ntshangase — accounting officer and head of the supply chain at the Health Department — is also charged for a contravention of the Public Finance Management Act.

The charges arise from the Health Department’s purchase of a Logiq E compact ultra sound device from Mkhwanazi’s Rowmoor Investments for the sum of R1,5 million. The actual price was allegedly R425 000, and the only authorised supplier in SA was allegedly Medhold GEMS.

The state alleges that Nkonyeni was offered a “gratification” by Mkhwanazi to use her position as MEC to influence officials to purchase at least one ultra-sound machine from Rowmoor Investments.

Her reward is alleged to have been a payment of R20 000 and free luxury accommodation on more than one occasion at the Steenberg Hotel in Constantia, Cape Town.

Nkonyeni’s supporters once again crowded the public gallery and their singing echoed throughout the court building during adjournments.


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