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Nkandla accused ordered to face charges‚ despite depression

Picture: Mattew Savides
Picture: Mattew Savides

Sibusiso Chonco will have to leave his sick bed and present himself before a disciplinary hearing‚ where he is accused of wrongdoing in the awarding of the R246-million contract for upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.

Chonco is the first of 10 public works officials to face the hearing‚ where they are broadly accused of flouting tender processes that saw controversial architect Minenhle Makhanya awarded the contract for the upgrades. He was set to appear on Monday and Tuesday.

But in a dramatic twist‚ his legal representative Adrian Moodley presented a medical certificate showing that Chonco was depressed‚ unable to concentrate and on heavy medication. He had been booked off work from March 29 to April 29.

However‚ hearing chairman Adv Thulani Khuzwayo and the department’s legal representative Clement Kulati questioned the document‚ and argued that the doctor “did not seem convinced” that Chonco should be away from work. They also had serious questions over whether or not the sick note entitled Chonco to be away from work and from the hearing‚ or whether it applied only to his job.

Kulati was admant that the department did not have an application for sick leave from Chonco. He said it appeared that Chonco had gotten ill “in order to miss the hearing“‚ a claim denied by Moodley.

After an hour-long debate – which included Moodley being ordered to leave the meeting to phone Chonco and tell him to appear on Tuesday – Khuzwayo adjourned the hearing until Tuesday‚ and was insistent that Chonco present himself. This was despite Moodley saying that‚ following his phone call‚ Chonco insisted he would not be able to attend due to his ill health.

“He’s not saying that he won’t attend. He’s saying the he can’t attend due to his illness‚” said Moodley.

But Khuzwayo said that the hearing would go ahead on Tuesday‚ saying that if the sick note was accepted and a postponement granted “we may never have the hearing at all“.

“I’m adjourning it for him to be here tomorrow. If you have to go to his house to fetch him‚ so be it. If he’s not here‚ that’s problematic. Let’s adjourn until tomorrow for the employee to be here‚” said Khuzwayo.

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