An alleged accomplice of Julia Mashele - South Africa's longest-serving awaiting trial prisoner - yesterday confirmed her story that the police had lied to keep her in jail.
Mashele, a Pretoria businesswoman, was arrested in May 1993 and was kept in prison for seven years, until May 2000.
Yesterday the first support for her claims that the police had never had a case against her came from her co-accused, Zenzo Makhanya.
She was facing 101 charges "and they were all trumped up", said Makhanya.
Because of her imprisonment, Mashele lost two trucks she had leased out, several taxis and a plot in Rooivaal, Pretoria.
Makhanya told Sowetan that he was recruited in 1992 by a policeman (whose name is known to Sowetan) who taught him how to steal and tamper with the engines of cars and trucks. Vehicles were left at Mashele's premises as "evidence of her corrupt practises", Makhanya said.
"I was recruited in 1992, solely for the purpose of implicating Julia," he said.
"I was paid between R5 000 and R10 000 a month for a year to compile evidence and lies so that I could be a state witness against her."
Makhanya said he knew Mashele through his late uncle, a Soweto businessman.
"I was fascinated by the cars in her yard and liked her very much until I was approached by the policeman," said Makhanya.
He said he was "arrested" to implicate Mashele in allegations such as dealing in drugs and stolen goods.
"I was told by the policeman that I would be arrested for a short period and that I should cooperate. When the police arrived on the farm of [the policeman's] relative to arrest me I was not worried because I knew it was part of the deal," said Makhanya.
He became Mashele's co-accused in 1993 and said he was coached to implicate her in court.
He said that while in prison his conscience would not allow him to lie about Mashele.
"Life became rough because I refused to become a state witness. I was chained like a dog in C-Max," he said.
"The policeman who wanted me to testify against Mashele arranged an illegal release. Then, to my surprise, I heard that I was wanted for escaping from lawful custody."
Makhanya was rearrested. He and Mashele were both released from prison in 2000.
The policeman who allegedly befriended Makhanya in order to nail Mashele "fell sick" when called to give evidence in court.
"There was no case against Mashele. The whole plan revolved around me lying about her in court and since I would not do that the case fell apart," he said
Provincial police spokesman Govindsamy Mariemuthoo said the police would investigate the allegations when Makhanya presented them.