Mandela funeral suspects in the dock

Johannesburg – The state has a pool of 54 witnesses lined up to testify against 14 accused [11 individuals and three business entities] charged with defrauding Buffalo City metro of millions of rand following the death of former president Nelson Mandela in December 2013.

The trial will resume at Bhisho High Court on April 11.

Among its key witnesses is the former Eastern Cape premier Noxolo Kievit, former provincial director-general Marion Mbinda-Mthembu and the current director-general Mbulelo Sogoni.

The three are expected to testify about the provincial government’s decision to centralise procurement related to Mandela’s funeral and memorial events.

The state’s case against former Buffalo City metro councillors, municipal employees, an ANC regional leader and business people and their entities is that while the Eastern Cape government had taken a decision to centralise its procurement for all activities related to the death of Mandela.

The accused had set up a scheme designed to defraud the municipality to the tune of R10-million but were caught after they allegedly pocketed R6-million.

The accused face 27 counts of fraud, corruption, money laundering and contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act.

They also face counter allegations such as theft, violation of their legal duties, failure to report or prevent organised crimes.

The ANC regional chairperson of WB Rubusana region [Buffalo City metro], Phumlani Mkolo, who was the party’s regional secretary at the time, has been dubbed the mastermind behind the scheme.

The state contends Mkolo used his political position to influence senior Buffalo City councillors such as former mayor Zukiswa Ncita and former Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba to ensure that the municipality made R10-million available for the procurement of transportation.

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