DELAYing nkonyeni case will be 'COSTly'

DEFENCE advocates yesterday maintained that the State's "unpreparedness" in the corruption trial of former KwaZulu-Natal MEC for health has prejudiced her right to a speedy trial.

ANC officials and supporters arrived at the Pietermaritzburg regional court where Neliswa "Peggy" Nkonyeni appeared with businessman Lindelihle Mkhwanazi and supply chain manager in the health department Mduduzi Ntshangase.

The accused tried to have their fraud and corruption case struck off the roll because the State was not ready to proceed without "evidence from a witness".

But the court disagreed and ruled that the case will go on trial on June 12.

Nkonyeni, who is the first accused, sat next to Mkhwanazi, the owner of Rowmoor Investments, the company that sold the health department mamogram machine at an allegedly inflated price of R1,5milllion.

Mkhwanazi is romantically involved with Nkonyeni.

Nkonyeni is accused of influencing the purchase of the ultrasound machine that could have been bought for about R425000 but allegedly cost R1,5million.

The trial was initially set to be in court for two weeks but the State said it was awaiting an affidavit from a Dr Gaston Savio from the Intaka Pty Ltd based in Cape Town that sold the machine to Mkhwanazi.

Prosecutor Hein van der Merwe asked for postponement, saying the affidavit might have other information that would be required during the trial.

He told the court that all he wanted was an adjournment to finalise his case.

Defence advocate Kessie Naidu SC said the delay could cost Nkonyeni more if the State continued to ask for further adjournment.

Mkhwanazi's attorney, Mvuseni Ngubane, said his client needed to resume his business as "his tenders had been frozen until the outcome of the trial".

Magistrate Chris van Vuuren disagreed, stating that the request for adjournment was reasonable. He said there must be clarity on the matter.