Suspended municipal manager barely misses being arrested

SUSPENDED Nkomazi munici pality manager Sabelo Shabangu was nearly arrested.

SUSPENDED Nkomazi munici pality manager Sabelo Shabangu was nearly arrested.

He had failed to appear in the Nelspruit regional court, where he was supposed to be a state witness in the trial of Ernest Khoza and Stanley Soko.

Former Mpumalanga Economic Empowerment Corporation chief executive Khoza and Soko, a former director-general, are facing charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering.

Their trial was scheduled to resume on Tuesday. But Shabangu failed to turn up and the trial was postponed to yesterday and also because Advocate Gys Rautenberg, a member of the defence team, was sick.

At yesterday's court hearing before magistrate Naomi Engelbretch, another member of the defence, Giyani-based attorney Gezani Maluleke, told the magistrate that Rautenberg was still sick but would be ready for the trial today.

The state recommended that the matter be postponed until next month but Maluleke insisted it should be heard today because Rautenberg "would be ready and that the trial had taken many years".

The magistrate called Shabangu to the dock and asked him why he had failed to appear the day before.

"I was involved in a matter in a high court and thought I would finish in good time but it was not to be so," Shabangu told the court. "I contacted the prosecutor about the matter."

The magistrate told him a warrant of arrest had been issued against him but that it would be cancelled.

Shabangu was a chief director in the office of the premier during the time when Soko was a director-general and was suspended last year for alleged under-performance.

He and two other witnesses, Rashid Hussen, a deputy director-general, and Judy Greathead were warned to appear in the same court today.

The trial results from the government's payment of R3,6million to Rainbow Kwanda communications on August 12 2003.

The company had won a contract to the tune of more than R30 million to brand the province in order for it to improve its economy and tourists attraction.