Former Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba says she cannot wait to clear her name in the corruption case related to the monies defrauded during the memorial service events of late former president Nelson Mandela.
Gomba and 10 other accused appeared at the East London High Court on Tuesday on charges of corruption, money laundering, fraud and contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act.
The matter was provisionally remanded to January 19 next year, with trial likely to take place in the second quarter of the year.
Gomba and other accused – Phumlani Mkolo, Zukiswa Veronica Ncitha, Themba Tinta, Luleka Simon-Ndzele, Tembelani Prideaux Sali, Ondela Vatile Mahlangu, Viwe Vazi, Nosiphiwo Mati, Dean William Fanoe and Nqaba Ludidi – had their bail extended.
The accused appeared before Judge Bantubonke Tokota under an unprecedented police presence, which included members of the tactical response team who carried assault rifles in a packed court.
Judge Tokota postponed the matter to allow other preliminary matters to be concluded before trial, including the pending applications by two of the accused who want to have a separate trial.
That application will be heard on November 23 and the accused are expected to plead for the first time on January 19, before a trial date can be set for April.
Gomba said she wants to argue her case “as in yesterday so that I know where we stand as the accused”.
“Individually, we know the case and our involvement. And we are so itching to get to the point of arguing the case and clearing our names,” said Gomba.
Earlier this year Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane fired Gomba after she was charged with contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act.
A Special Investigating Unit report, which singled out Gomba for wrongdoing in the controversial R10 million motorbike procurement, also influenced Mabuyane’s decision to fire her.
The former MEC said the case had had an impact on their political lives and careers and questioned whether the ANC still cared for its members.
“There are very important issues beyond politics, which are families and our lives. In the way the matter has been handled, it is an issue that speaks to whether the ANC is really a caring organisation or not. The ANC does not seem to be caring about our families and our situation because it is pushing us further to the line of poverty,” said Gomba.
Gomba was adamant that she got involved in the Mandela memorial service events at the behest of the ANC, but that now the party was nowhere to be seen.
She revealed that she had even been instructed not to speak on ANC matters pending the finalisation of the trial. She said she was eager to go on the campaign trail for the governing party ahead of the local government elections, but she could not do so because of the case hanging over her head.
She said she was not pushed to be part of politics, and would also not want to be pushed out of politics either.
She added that the case, which has been dragging for more than seven years, has become very expensive to fight.
“At the same time, we are suspended, demoted. Where are we expected to get the money?”
The accused allegedly schemed to swindle the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality of R10 million during the preparations for Mandela’s funeral in December 2013.
It is alleged that R5.9 million had already been transferred to them before the municipal manager, Andile Fani, stopped the further payment of R4.1 million.
Anelisa Ngcakani, regional spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, believes there is a watertight case against the accused.
“This case was provisionally withdrawn previously for further investigations, but we put it back on the roll this year in February and we are confident that the case is watertight ... we are ready with our case,” she said.