State told to get its house in order

state told to get its house in order

State told to get its house in order

Durban — The State has been warned to get its house in order in terms of documentation and statements in the trial against former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, 17 others, and four companies who were the main contractors in the R300 million DSW tender.

Gumede and her co-accused face more than 2 000 charges, including conspiracy to commit corruption, corruption, fraud, money laundering, racketeering, contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act, and contravention of the Municipal Systems Act.

On Monday, on the first day of the trial’s five-week session, State prosecutor advocate Bongiwe Mbambo called two witnesses, a senior manager at the City’s Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Unit and a senior administrator in the speaker’s office.

The two testified on documents around the gift register of the accused senior city officials as well as disclosure of interests forms relating to accused councillors. Neither of the witnesses led any evidence incriminating the accused.

The gift register contains gift declarations by all municipal employees.

When Mbambo had handed the senior manager at the City’s Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Unit a document that was compiled for purposes of the investigation – which contains an extract from the gift register filed to the unit – it emerged that there was no statement taken from the employee who had compiled the document.

This information was brought to light after advocate Jay Naidoo, representing Gumede, objected to the senior manager at the City’s Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Unit testifying on this document that was not compiled by her.

The defence counsel also raised a concern that the witness had testified on a 2018 circular on the gift register which had not been provided to defence counsels.

The State then indicated that the investigating officer would be sent to take the statement from the compiler of the document which had been done at the behest and approval of the testifying witness.

Judge Sharmaine Balton warned the State that there seemed to be a recurring issue of documents and being ill prepared in the matter dating back to when the trial started.

“You still have a long way to go with the trial with many more documents, please do prepare …

“The record will speak for itself that from the onset I’ve almost lectured as to how evidence is being presented …

“All of this must be foreseen in advance … I don’t want to lose my patience, there is a repetition of documentation issues.

“I don’t want to waste time, now we can’t proceed with this witness’s cross-examination until such time the documents have been furnished,” she said.

Evidence of the gift register relates to the period from January 2017 to January 2020. In it accused former city manager Sipho Nzuza declared three gifts: an R80 wine bottle on December 18, 2018; a study tour to Morocco on May 23, 2019 with pricing specified; and a R2000 computer bag on December 18, 2018.

This was while accused former deputy head at DSW Robert Abbu declared a R100 USB speaker on December 5, 2017.

The senior administrator in the speaker’s office testified that in 2019 she had been requested to supply copies of disclosure of interests forms of the accused for purposes of the investigation.

The form requires officials to disclose information on shares and other financial interests, directorship and partnerships, other business interests, sponsorships, land and property, pension, and foreign travel.

The forms are signed by the councillor it relates to as well as the city manager with dates.

Evidence led by the administrator was that Gumede in her forms had only declared residential property while her co-accused former councillor Mondli Mthembu had a house and a KZN pension fund.

During her testimony, it emerged that this month she got a request to send the prosecution the above-mentioned forms for accused councillors Sduduzo Khuzwayo, Welcome Phewa, and Mthokozisi Nojiyeza.

During cross-examination, Naidoo brought to the attention of the witness that the city manager’s signature on Gumede’s form was not the same as the one on Phewa’s form.

The witness explained that the procedure, when it came to these forms, was that the councillor signed first and the city manager was the last to sign.

The city manager’s signature on some of these forms reflects the year 2020 while councillors signed in 2016.

The trial continues.

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