Malatsi: Sentence 'unfair'

2006-12-11 15:17

Cape Town - Former Western Cape environment and planning MEC David Malatsi was on Monday sentenced to a five year jail term for his role in the Roodefontein corruption case.

Bellville regional magistrate, Andre le Grange, however immediately granted him leave to appeal his conviction, saying he could not exclude the possibility that another court would come to a different conclusion.

Malatsi said afterwards he thought the sentence was "rather harsh" compared to the way other figures in the affair had been dealt with.

Like fraudster Tony Yengeni, he was sentenced under a section of the Criminal Procedure Act that will allow him, if the conviction is upheld, to be released under correctional supervision after serving only a sixth of the five year term.

In October Le Grange convicted Malatsi on one count of corruption after finding that he had accepted a R100 000 donation to the New National Party, of which he was then a member, from Italian count Riccardo Agusta in 2002.

Le Grange found that the money was meant to lubricate provincial approval of Agusta's proposed golf estate development at Roodefontein outside Plettenberg Bay.

His co-accused, former Western Cape premier Peter Marais, was found not guilty; Agusta, wealthy heir to the Agusta helicopter empire, had earlier paid a R1m fine in terms of a plea bargain agreement with the Scorpions.

Le Grange said on Monday that the suggestion by Malatsi's attorney Frank Raymond that his client be sentenced only to a fine and correctional supervision was "unsustainable".

He said the crime of corruption on the part of elected officials was "no doubt a very serious offence", and the higher courts had said it should be taken as seriously as crimes of violence.

Malatsi's sentence should reflect consistency with those imposed on similar offenders in the past, Le Grange said.

Marais, in court with his wife Bonita, appeared shocked when he heard the sentence, and afterwards shook Malatsi's hand and exchanged a few words with him.

Malatsi, who smiled to himself and put his hands in his pockets when he heard Le Grange's decision, said he was "surprised" at the sentence.

"I contest the conviction, so the sentence would be rather harsh as far as I'm concerned, because I really believe that the argument of the State in this case was... conspiracy, that has always been the consistent approach of the State, and that has not been proved.

"There was no personal enrichment in this case, there was no unjustified enrichment on my part, so I feel the conviction and sentence is unfair.

"Bearing in mind that Agusta paid a fine, Peter Marais was found not guilty... me having to go to jail for doing my job, well..."

He repeated his contention that he was "hung out to dry" by the now-defunct New National Party, which should have been one of the accused in the case.

His R10 000 bail was extended pending the outcome of the appeal.