Three Mandela funeral scam accused turn to high court

Three of the accused in the Nelson Mandela funeral fraud scandal resorted to the Grahamstown High Court in a third attempt to have the criminal charges against them quashed.

ANC regional secretary Pumlani Mkolo, businesswomen Zintle Nkuhlu and Nosiphiwo Mati are asking the court to review and set aside East London regional magistrate Sadia Jacobs’ decision last year not to quash the charge sheet, which they say is woefully inadequate and wholly defective.

The three, along with former Buffalo City mayor Zukiswa Ncitha‚ former deputy mayor Themba Tinta‚ former speaker Luleka Simon-Ndzele‚ senior councillor Sindiswa Gomba‚ senior city official Ondela Mahlangu‚ and business people Viwe Vazi and Dean Fanoe and some of their companies face charges relating to millions of rands earmarked for the former president’s memorial services and the funeral.

Numerous versions of the charge sheet have been drafted and handed to the accused. Each one was as defective as the one before, it is claimed in court papers.

Jacobs ruled on two separate occasions in April last year that the charge sheet contained sufficient information for the 10 accused to prepare their defences and to plead to the charges.

Advocate Laurence Hodes, SC, for Mkolo, Nkuhlu and Mati yesterday argued that the charge sheet lacked particularity on the allegations of common purpose between the accused.

“The court must be satisfied that an accused is constitutionally entitled to timeously know the case they must meet so that they can prepare (their defence). In this case, they are saying in effect that (the accused) must work out for themselves the case they have to meet. It is wholly inadequate.”

He set out how over time the charge sheet had been amended on several different occasions. Each was defective.

But advocate Niel Schoeman, SC, arguing on behalf of Jacobs, said the role of each accused in the alleged crimes was eminently clear from the final charge sheet.

He conceded that the charge sheet was deplorable and not an “easy read”.

“But the role of each of the accused is stipulated to a tee.”

He said the application to review the magistrate’s decision was a smoke screen.

Advocate Terry Price, who argued the matter on behalf of the director of public prosecutions conceded the charge sheet was “not perfect” but said there was certainly enough in it for the accused to plead to the charges.

“Everything that is required is in the charge sheet. It may need touching up but there is enough there to plead to (the charges).”

He said in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act the state was allowed to – at any point – amend the charge sheet to cure any identified deficiencies.

Judges Judith Roberson and Thami Beshe reserved judgment.

Hodes yesterday urged the judges not to send the matter back to the magistrate but to rather to simply quash the charge sheet.

He pointed out that if the defective charge sheet was quashed it was not the end of the road for the prosecution.

The prosecutor would be entitled to put together a “proper charge sheet” setting out the case that the accused were required to meet and then re-charge them.

Both Pretoria-based prosecutor Diniso Ketani and the investigating officer in the matter, East London-based police Hawks investigator Captain Luphumlo Lwana attended the hearing.


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