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14 in court for Nelson Mandela funeral fraud

JOHANNESBURG – The 14 accused charged with defrauding the Buffalo City Metro an amount of money close to R6-million have pleaded not guilty to the charges during their appearance at Bhisho High Court, sitting in East London Wednesday.

These charges emanate from the memorial events of the world’s renown icon Nelson Mandela.

The accused allegedly used their political influence, their council and administrative positions, and their business entities to manipulate the municipality in order to make fraudulent payments under the false pretence that it was intended for memorial service events when in actual sense the provincial government of the Eastern Cape had centralised all the procurement related to Mandela memorial activities.

They are facing 27 counts of fraud, corruption, money laundering and contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act and other alternative charges.

The accused include the ANC Regional Chairperson of WB Rubusana Region [Buffalo City Metro] Phumlani Mkolo, the former Buffalo City mayor Zukiswa Ncita, former Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba, Ncita’s former deputy Temba Tinta and former Buffalo City Council Speaker Luleka Simon-Ndzele, three former municipal officials and three business owners and their three entities.

All accused appeared at East London High Court, except for accused number one Phumlani Mkolo who presented a sick certificate through his legal representatives. His plea was confirmed by his legal counsel advocate Mike Maseti.

The state intends to call about 54 witnesses when the matter resumes at Bhisho High Court from 11 April.

Among them is Andile Fani who was the Buffalo City Municipal Manager and was on leave at the time when the scheme was executed, Vincent Pillay who was the Chief Financial Officer, an Acting MM during that transaction. Pillay entered into a plea bargain agreement with the state after he was charged for his role in the scheme.

Businessman Mzwandile Sonkwali whose transport business Victory Ticket 750 CC was fraudulently registered in the Buffalo City supply chain and was used to channel the funds to various individuals and businesses also pleaded guilty and turned state witness.

Dean Fanoe who is accused number 10 and his company, accused number 11, Mantella Trading 522 CC have brought an application for the separation of trial from the rest of the accused.

His application will be heard at Bhisho High Court from Thursday and judge Igna Stretch is expected to deliver a judgment before the resumption of this matter in April.

Speaking to the media after their court appearance Gomba said the charges are a hogwash.

“I am clubbed in common purpose with others, but when you look at other people in this common purpose they are not even councillors,” said Gomba.

However, NPA Spokesperson advocate Mthunzi Mhaga said the state is not surprised by the pleas of not guilty and it is ready to present evidence on each of the accused.

Former Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba and Former Buffalo City Speaker Luleka Simon-Ndzele during their previous appearance at East London High Court.

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