- Manyana Rubben Mohlaloga and Philemon Mohlahlane lost their appeal to overturn criminal convictions.
- They were convicted for their role in defrauding the Land Bank of R6 million in 2008.
- They got the money via a grant from a fund meant to uplift previously disadvantaged and emerging farmers.
Former ANC MP Manyana Rubben Mohlaloga and the former acting head of Land Bank, Philemon Mohlahlane, lost their appeal to overturn criminal convictions for defrauding the Land Bank of R6 million.
In January, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria dismissed the appeal against both the conviction and sentences of Mohlaloga, Mohlahlane and attorney Dinga Rammy Nkwashu.
This was after the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court convicted and sentenced the three men in February 2019 for crimes they committed in 2008.
The court, consisting of two judges, dismissed the appeal, finding that the State witnesses, including two Section 204 witnesses – who were given indemnity for their role in the crimes – were reliable and that the lower court was correct in rejecting the versions of the accused.
Mohlahlane claimed the money he received was a loan and that he had no idea about the grant. He further claimed that he was made a scapegoat in the matter.
READ | Icasa boss sentenced to 20 years in prison for fraud, money laundering
Mohlaloga conceded that he received money from the grant, but also alleged it was a loan.
The court found the accused abused their respective positions and abused the system.
The judgment read:
"Such conduct cannot be countenanced. There is no redeeming quality found in their actions or conduct."
The fact that the farm was eventually purchased with part of the Land Bank funds also did not assist them – because it was done as a "last grasp (sic)" to divert attention from their conduct and the land was never really intended to benefit the community.
Nearing the end of 2007, a scheme was hatched to illegally apply for a grant from the AgriBEE fund, established by the agriculture department, to bring previously disadvantaged and emerging farmers, especially women and youth, into the commercial farming sphere.
Both Mohlaloga, who was an MP and the chairperson of the portfolio committee on agriculture, and Land Bank boss Mohlahlane could not apply for the loan, so they got Mohlaloga's ANC youth league friends to front it.
READ | Parliament wants convicted fraudster and Icasa chair to be suspended
After the application was submitted, Mohlahlane put pressure on an employee to approve the grant, despite the correct process not being followed, as well as missing paperwork.
After the payment was made, the accused spent the money, but eventually bought a farm in Limpopo, with no intent to use the land for job creation and upliftment.
Instead, according to the judgment, Mohlaloga used R866 150 to buy two BMWs, and a further R2.8 million was transferred to his family trust.
R2.2 million was eventually used to buy a farm, which stayed vacant, but the land was rented out to a local farmer for R1 000 a month for grazing.
Conviction and sentencing
Mohlahlane, who was found guilty of fraud, was sentenced to an effective seven years' imprisonment, while Mohlaloga was found guilty of both fraud and money laundering, and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment.
Nkwashu was sentenced to 24 years in prison, as well as a fine of R50 000 conditionally suspended for five years.
News24 previously reported that all three men were granted bail after their sentencing, pending the outcome of the appeal.
Fin24 previously reported that Mohlaloga was appointed to the previous Icasa board in 2013, despite the fraud allegations.
He has served as acting chairperson of the Icasa board since 2017, and was sacked after his conviction.