Hawks sell councillor's car despite not-guilty verdict
ANC councillor and Miss Amathole Heritage beauty pageant organiser Nanziwe Rulashe has opened a criminal complaint against the Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) for selling off her assets ahead of the conclusion of her trial when she was found not guilty of fraud.
On March 29 Rulashe was acquitted by East London regional court magistrate Nomthandazo Vabaza on three counts of fraud relating to the R2.5m donation she obtained in 2015 from Amathole District Municipality (ADM) to run the pageant.
Rulashe said she opened a complaint because her Kia Sportage was confiscated and auctioned off by the state long before she was acquitted.
Rulashe’s other vehicle, a Ford Figo, was handed over to the pageant winner who, according to her, was supposed to have kept it for 12 months as part of the pageant agreement.
She also claims that after her Kia was confiscated, she received e-toll fines stretching over the three years when it was in the hands of the state. The fines, she says, were run up from August 2017.
NPA spokesperson Tsepo Ndwalaza confirmed that the Kia was auctioned for R120,100, while “the winner [of the 2015 pageant] retained the Ford Figo, on humanitarian grounds”.
Ndwalaza said: “Both vehicles were preserved and forfeited as proceeds of unlawful activities, that is fraud, following Chapter 6 procedures of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, No 121 of 1998 (Poca).
“It is therefore patently incorrect to state that Poca Chapter 6 procedures were to depend on the outcome of the criminal proceedings. It certainly does not. Poca Chapter 6 procedures are non-conviction based, that is no arrest, prosecution or conviction is required to have the vehicles forfeited, and it runs parallel to the criminal process. In most if not all cases, Chapter 6 processes are finalised prior to the completion of the criminal case. Chapter 6 proceedings in this matter were against the two vehicles as guilty (sic) of being proceeds of fraud and not Miss Rulashe, who was served with the preservation papers and opted not to oppose the granting of the forfeiture order, hence the forfeiture order by default.”
He said the order to auction was handed down by the Grahamstown High Court in 2017.
Ndwalaza showed the Dispatch a proof of sale and deposit into Criminal Assets Recovery Account (CARA) of R120,100 on October 16 2017.
Police spokesperson Captain Hazel Mqala confirmed that the matter had been reported to police earlier this month.
Hawks national spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi referred questions to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, whose spokesperson Moses Dlamini could not be reached.
Rulashe said that after her acquittal she asked the Hawks to hand back her car and was told it had been sold by the state.
E-toll fines, posted to Rulashe’s Alice address, amounting to over R4,000, show that despite the car still being registered in Rulashe’s name, it had been used by someone in Gauteng since 2017, resulting in Rulashe being billed for fines she knows nothing about.
Rulashe said she recently went to the East London traffic department and discovered that both cars were still registered under her name.
When Dispatch asked Ndwalaza about this, he said the issue fell outside of the “AFU work and mandate. The forfeiture process stopped on the day of such deposit of the proceeds of the Kia vehicle into CARA and the allowance of the winner to retain the Ford Figo.
“The vehicle was sold as is and the purchaser thereof should follow traffic department procedures to have it registered in his or her name,” he said.
“Should the purchaser not do so and drive it with the old registration number, picking up traffic fines in the process, they are contravening traffic regulations and may face the consequences thereof.”