High-profile fraud trial delayed again

THE high-profile trial of former Economic Empowerment Corporation chief executive Ernest Khoza and former Mpumalanga director-general Stanley Soko was again postponed yesterday.

This was after a member of the defence team could again not make it to court because of ill health.

Khoza and Soko are facing charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering related to the issuing of a R30million contract awarded to Rainbow Kwanda Communications in August 2003.

The trial should have resumed on Tuesday but failed to because Advocate Gys Rautenberg was sick.

One of the state witnesses, Sabelo Shabangu, could also not make it to court on the first day.

On Wednesday the court accepted a request by defence attorney Gezani Maluleke that the hearing should take place yesterday if Rautenberg recovered from his illness.

Maluleke told the court yesterday that he had spoken to both Rautenberg and his doctor, who confirmed that the advocate could not make it to court because he was still unwell.

Presiding magistrate, Naomi Engelbrecht, accepted Maluleke's submissions and postponed the matter to July 21 and 22 when state witnesses, including Shabangu, will be expected to give evidence.

The hearing has so far had a number of surprises, including when witness Moses Mashamaite told the court he was tired and needed a rest.

Khoza was stuck in a lift in the Nelspruit magistrate's court building for about 30 minutes after the power suddenly went off.

State witness Lize van der Merwe, a senior secretary in the office of the provincial director-general, got shocked by an electric current from a microphone on the witness stand.

A number of supporters outside the court one day waved placards in which they implicated former premier Thabang Makwetla in the whole scenario.

Rainbow Kwanda Communications had been appointed by the provincial government under the leadership of then premier Ndaweni Mahlangu to brand the province in a way that would boost tourism and the economy.

The government paid the company that was co-owned by Mashamaite and former City Press editor Vusi Mona, R3,6 million as start up capital.

Though Mashamaite has finished giving evidence as a state witness, it is not clear if Mona will be called as a state witness.