A beauty pageant organiser with political connections is on the run after a warrant for her arrest was issued by a magistrate.
Regional court magistrate Nomthandazo Vabaza ordered the arrest of Nanziwe Rulashe, a former Nkonkobe municipality ANC councillor and chairwoman of the Amathole district municipality (ADM) municipal public accounts committee.
She is being hunted by the Hawks after she skipped her date in court for the third time on Tuesday.
She faces fraud charges relating to R2.5-million ADM donated in 2015 to her event, the annual Miss Amathole Heritage Beauty Pageant. Rulashe is apparently in Johannesburg.
The arrest warrant was issued on Tuesday despite Rulashe’s legal representative Advocate Mike Maseti pleading for her to be spared. Maseti told Vabaza that Rulashe had not been in court, as she was stuck at OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday morning without a flight.
“I called her and she informed me that she was at the airport hoping to get a space as she was on standby and sadly somebody else was slotted in her space and will only be catching another flight which comes from Jo’burg at 2.30pm and it will land here at about 4pm your worship.
“It is a situation that we now find ourselves in; I am sorry your worship, indeed I have been saying sorry for the whole day. I am sorry for the kind of situation we all find ourselves in,” Maseti said.
Vabaza responded: “You have been saying sorry since yesterday not just for the whole day today”.
Maseti responded: “Yes your worship and it takes away something from me to always say sorry but I feel I owe everyone an apology.”
After a moment of silence, state prosecutor Advocate Diniso Ketani got up and addressed the magistrate: “The court has been very lenient and indulging on his client in terms of the behaviour that is unheard of.
“The court has been accommodating to [Rulashe] and I am going to make a submission that since yesterday was the final forfeiture of the bail, when she arrives before court Captain Luphumplo Lwana must arrest her, so that when she comes here, she comes from the prison cells.
Maseti got up and said: “Your worship in reply, what my learned colleague is submitting is indeed very drastic”.
However, Vabaza sided with the state and authorised the warrant after being told that Rulashe did not appear in court for the hearing of the case on March 28, April 24 and again on Tuesday.
Her R10000 bail she paid to the court on May 23 last year following her arrest has also been forfeited to the state. Ketani told the court the warrant would be executed by the investigating officer Captain Lwana.
The warrant authorises Rulashe to be arrested and kept in the female section of the West Bank Maximum Prison until the finalisation of the case.
Ketani told the magistrate that the trial date had been set for August 22, 23 and 24.
Rulashe’s co-accused, former ADM mayor Nomasikiza Konza, Sigcinile Saba, Mawande Njeza and Rulashe’s younger sister, Anita were present in court on Tuesday.
They have been charged with similar offences.
The five are all on trial for allegedly defrauding the district municipality of more than R2.5-million under the pretext of funding the annual Miss Amathole Heritage Beauty Pageant.
The pageant was held at the University of Fort Hare Alice Campus in late 2015 and was organised by Rulashe who, according to the state, used some of the funds to buy herself a luxury vehicle.
It is the state’s case that some of the funds claimed from the municipality which is struggling financially, to cover the costs for accommodation, a gala dinner, marketing, venue hire and other logistics, ended up in the personal bank accounts of the accused.
The case been postponed to June 7 for further investigation. — firstname.lastname@example.org