Thuso, wife, Walk free

Mfundekelwa Mkhulisi

Mfundekelwa Mkhulisi

Flamboyant Lesedi FM presenter Thuso Motaung, his wife Mamontha, and a business associate, Joshua Ramme, were acquitted on all charges by the Johannesburg commercial crimes court yesterday.

The Motaungs and Ramme faced charges of defrauding the SABC of airtime worth R34million.

The offences were allegedly committed from 2004 to 2006.

Magistrate A Ramlaal said the state failed to prove that the accused were guilty and acquitted them on all 12 charges, including fraud, money laundering and unauthorised use of the Lesedi FM logo.

"The onus is on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused are guilty, but the state has failed to do so," she said.

Ramlaal said state witnesses contradicted themselves and each other in some instances.

The magistrate said it was "highly improbable" that the Motaungs could have abused the airtime without anyone noticing because there was vigorous monitoring by the sales department.

"The Motaungs were not directly involved in the scheduling of Lesedi programmes, so it is clear that someone had given permission for the advert," said Ramlaal.

Ululations and tears of joy filled the court moments after the judgment was read.

"I am crying because I am happy. I said at the beginning of the trial that I will be with Thuso all the way," said 55-year-old Kubu Mokubung.

Afterwards, the Motaungs and Ramme said in a press briefing held at the offices of their lawyer, Zola Majavu, in Milpark, that they were "extremely relieved that this nightmare of a case is finally over".

Motaung said they had left the court building with their integrity intact and if the SABC wanted their services, they would gladly go behind the microphones.

"Our fate was put in the hands of strangers who decided whether our needs were real needs or luxury," he said.

Ramme said he would sue the SABC "for defamation of character, loss of income, pain and suffering, while he was being prosecuted for hearsay fraud".

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said the broadcaster was disappointed with the not guilty verdict but would consider other avenues to recover the money that was lost.