jubilation after CHIEF convicted

Winkie Dibakwane

Winkie Dibakwane

Bakgatlha-ba-Kgafela women ululated and men blew home-made trumpets when their chief was found guilty of fraud and corruption in Rustenburg yesterday.

The flamboyant chief Nyalala John Molefe Pilane, 46, loved by some and hated by others among his tribe, looked puzzled but cool when the verdict was announced.

He was initially charged with 46 charges of fraud, corruption and theft. He was found guilty on 18 counts and discharged on 28 other charges.

"There was overwhelming evidence against the accused. His own evidence was overshadowed by that provided by the state," magistrate Stefaan du Toit said.

Pilane was convicted in the Mogwase regional court.

Tribesmen and women, among them members of the royal family, chanted happily in the courtyard after judgment was delivered. The chief's co-accused, Koos Motshegwa, 46, was also found guilty of stealing R10000 which belonged to the tribe. He faced only one charge.

The two will be sentenced on August 7. Their bail of R2000 each has been extended.

The 18 charges the chief was convicted of involve R38million. They include two counts of defrauding the Land Bank of R34million. In convicting Pilane the magistrate said he could not question the evidence and subsequent argument presented by prosecutor Leandra van Niekerk that Pilane transferred millions of rands from the tribe's account into his five personal accounts.

"The evidence which the chief gave is not in line with that of the many witnesses called by both the defence and the state," he said.

Du Toit said that Pilane failed to bring to court the file which he claimed he had kept of all the records and receipts of purchases of diesel, motor spares and cattle at the tribe's farm in Dwaalboom.