Mandela memorial fraud trial set to resume following delays

The long-awaited Nelson Mandela memorial fraud trial is scheduled to recommence on February 6 following multiple postponements.

The trial will feature 12 suspects, including prominent members of the Eastern Cape’s political elite.

The Eastern Cape High Court in Bhisho ruled on Wednesday that cellphone records are admissible. According to the ruling, the main trial can now proceed, and Bhisho will host the hearing.

The case will now move forward following a number of delays, including requests for extensions to allow for the submission of arguments to the director of public prosecutions, judge Igna Stretch’s recusal, and an objection to the accused’s evidence.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has confirmed that 12 suspects will go on trial.

They include former ANC chairperson for Dr WB Rubusana region, Pumlani Mkolo; former Buffalo City metro mayor Zukiswa Ncitha; former speaker Luleka Simon-Ndzele; and former deputy mayor Themba Tinta.

Thembelani Sali, the municipality’s former supply chain manager, and former Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba are also facing the music.

When preparing for Mandela’s December 2013 memorial service, the accused allegedly stole R10-million from the Buffalo City metro.

“All the suspects are facing charges of fraud, money-laundering, and contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act,” said NPA spokesperson Luxolo Tyali.

Analysis and report admissible

The court has accepted the analysis and report, as well as the cellphone data that the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigations, also known as the Hawks, provided to the court in the Nelson Mandela memorial fraud trial, and will use them in court.

The court’s decision came about as a result of the 12 accused and other parties contesting the Hawks captain’s evidence, which was submitted in September 2022 via a flash drive and required a trial within a trial.

Other accused are Ondela Mahlangu, Viwe Vazi, Forty Wings Lodge CC, Nosiphiwo Mati, Mpindos Emergence Trading CC, and Nqaba Ludidi.

All of the accused have entered not guilty pleas to the charges that they allegedly committed shortly after former president Nelson Mandela passed away in December 2013.

“The NPA hopes that the trial, which is due to resume on February 6 2024, will proceed without any further hurdles until it is finalised so that the public may see justice being done,” said Tyali.

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