Mike Mabuyakhulu, the KwaZulu-Natal ANC's interim committee convenor, and seven businessmen and women from the province appeared in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on Friday on various charges, including money laundering and corruption.
The charges emanate from R28m paid for a North Sea Jazz Festival that was supposed to take place in Durban in 2012.
Mabuyakhulu, who is out on R50 000 bail, appeared alongside Ceaser Walter Mkhize, Mabheleni Ntuli, Mzwandile Basil Ninela, Nonhlanhla Brenda Ninela, Nothando Lorraine Zungu, Ntokozo Ndlovu and Njabulo Mbongwe Mkhize.
Their companies Desmond Khalid Golding, DMD Capital PTY LTD, Ishashalazi Production CC, Ishinga Holdings, Maqhoboza Traders CC, Shaka Holdings, Soft Skills Communications 100 CC and Supersize Investment 20CC are some of the 16 accused in the matter.
The eight accused and their companies face about 77 charges, including theft and fraud.
Magistrate Christophiner Mazibuko adjourned the case to August 22 to allow the Durban High Court to find a suitable court date for the matter.
State prosecutor Mlungisi Magwanyana had initially asked Mazibuko to postpone the matter until July 6, but legal representatives of all the accused asked for a short adjournment in order to arrange a suitable date for all the parties involved.
After a five-minute break, the State and the legal representatives said they had agreed on August 22.
Plot to steal nearly R28m
Magwanyana had earlier submitted that the State had supplied all relevant statements and documents to all the attorneys of the accused, including the indictment, through Compact discs (CDs) and USB flash drives.
Mabuyakhulu's co-accused allegedly played a role in a plot to steal nearly R28m from his former department between 2012 and 2013, after the cancellation of the North Sea Jazz Festival in 2012.
According to the indictment, Zungu is one of the main roleplayers alongside Mabuyakhulu – the former KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Economic Development and Tourism.
The companies of Mabuyakhulu's co-accused were allegedly paid, despite the festival being cancelled.
According to the indictment, the directors of MPM Productions and International Projects (PTY) LTD (MPM) - a company solely established to bring the North Sea Jazz Festival to South Africa from the Netherlands - had an interest in bringing the festival to the country.
They then approached Netherlands-based company Mojo Concert BV (Mojo) – the owner of intellectual property rights to the festival - and negotiated with it to acquire a right to host it in Durban.
On February 1, 2012, MPM and Mojo entered into a licensing and partnership agreement to host and stage the event in Durban, according to the indictment.
Some weeks after that, MPM and Soft Skills then entered into an agreement to jointly host the event.
On June 1, 2012, MPM and Soft Skills jointly entered into a three-year funding agreement with Mabuyakulu's former department for an amount of R25m, including VAT, and disbursements with annual inflation increase.
On November 30, 2012, R26 889 900 was paid to Soft Skills. It used the money to pay entities and individuals who had nothing to do with the festival, according to the indictment.
The indictment further suggests that, between April and July 2012, Zungu furnished the department with a letter claiming she was authorised by MPM to act on their behalf.
She had allegedly lied that she was the director of the MPM and Soft Skills joint venture.
In the letter, she allegedly wrote that the department should pay an amount of R969 000 to Soft Skills for the festival's "activations", not to the joint venture.
The State alleges that she was not authorised by MPM to act on their behalf, or Soft Skills – which is accused No 3 in the matter – and was not entitled to invoice the department.
"The amount should not have been paid to Soft Skills," said the indictment.
Mabuyakhulu's co-accused are out on R30 000 bail each.