Moerane bid to halt graft case fails

FORMER Eastern Cape legislature deputy speaker Neo Moerane may now have to defend herself against corruption and money laundering charges .

The Grahamstown High Court this week refused to grant Moerane a permanent stay of prosecution because many of the delays in the nine-year old case were caused by her.

The charges involve allegations that she and Max Mamase, in 2003 and 2004 took kickbacks from a citrus farmer Norman Benjamin for landing him an irregular and controversial R16-million “empowerment deal” via the Agriculture Department.

Mamase was MEC of agriculture at the time.

The “gratification” was alleged to be in the form of a R270000 payment to a company Quickvest – of which Mamase and Moerane were sole directors – for the transfer duty on the purchase of their luxury Bonnie Doon home .

A further R90000 was allegedly paid towards Quickvest’s mortgage loan on the property.

The charges against Mamase and Moerane were provisionally withdrawn in 2009 when Moerane won a technical point in the Supreme Court of Appeal on whether or not the Bhisho High Court had jurisdiction to hear the criminal case as the alleged crimes had happened across jurisdictions.

Although the state indicated it intended re-instituting the charges in the correct forum Moerane claims nothing happened.

She brought the application for a permanent stay of prosecution claiming she had been severely prejudiced by the delays in the case and that her right to a “speedy trial” had been violated.

But Judge Judith Roberson this week found differently.

She said the delay between 2006 and 2009 was due to the lengthy appeal procedure embarked upon on the jurisdictional point.

She said it was Moerane herself who had set this process in motion.

She found the subsequent three- year delay was wholly attributable to systemic problems encountered by the state.

It included the restructuring of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) following the disbandment of the Scorpions and the reassignment of prosecutors and investigating officers.

“During this time the prosecuting authority did not sit back and do nothing and steps towards a new prosecution were constantly taken, although the time lapses between some of the steps appear to be longer than would be expected .”

Roberson also rejected Moerane’s claim that she had suffered undue prejudice. She pointed out she was not in custody and her liberty and security were not affected.

“I accept that there has been and still is some social prejudice, and that it will have endured in varying degrees at least since her first appearance in court in 2005.”

Moerane claimed she was advised by the ANC to resign as provincial deputy speaker because of the charges hanging over her head.

“On the other hand she is still a member of the provincial legislature, a position which carries considerable responsibility and power, as well as a salary,” Roberson said.

“Overall I do not consider the social and professional prejudice to be significant.”

The NPA indicated that the new indictment against Moerane and Mamase had been finalised and the trial was ready to proceed.

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