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KZN businessman sentenced to 12 years for stealing R7.5m meant for crèche

Mex Dladla was sentenced to 12 years in prison for stealing R7.5m meant for a crèche.
Mex Dladla was sentenced to 12 years in prison for stealing R7.5m meant for a crèche.
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

A Pietermaritzburg businessman has been sentenced to 12 years behind bars by the Durban Commercial Crime Court after pleading guilty to fraud and money laundering of R7.5m meant for the building of a crèche. 

Businessman Mex Dladla, 48, from Bishopstowe in Pietermaritzburg, was sentenced on Tuesday after he masterminded the theft of money from the KwaZulu-Natal cooperative governance and traditional affairs department (Cogta) with his girlfriend, who was a departmental official.

His girlfriend, Nokwazi Patricia Mkhize (Chule), transferred the money from Cogta meant for the creche into his account after bypassing the department's biometrics procedure for settling government invoices.

KwaZulu-Natal National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Natasha Ramkisson-Kara said in a statement on Wednesday that Dladla was in a relationship with Mkhize (Chule) when the fraud was committed four years ago.

In November 2015, an amount of R7.5m meant for the building of a creche was to be paid from Cogta to the Ingwe municipality in the KZN Midlands but the money was instead deposited into Dladla’s bank account. The theft was picked up when the municipality complained that it had not yet received the money. Mkhize (Chule) failed to report for work after making the unauthorised transaction.

A police investigation discovered that Mkhize (Chule) had gone onto Cogta’s basic accounting system (BAS) and changed the municipality’s banking details to her boyfriend’s. It was later established that her immediate supervisor Hlengiwe Hlela had authorised the procedure. The accused splurged the money on clothing, shoes and unspecified luxury items.

The Asset Forfeiture Unit obtained a preservation order and seized the goods which were sold via curators but only R120,000 was recovered from the sales, said Ramkisson-Kara.

During the trial, senior state advocate Ranjini Govender led the evidence of the investigating officer who testified about the spending spree. She also told the court that Cogta effectively suffered a R15m loss as they still owed R7.5m to the Ingwe municipality and this had to be paid.

Mkhize (Chule) and Hlela are expected to appear in court soon.

KZN director of public prosecutions Moipone Noko welcome Dladla’s conviction and sentence and said she hoped it would deter would-be fraudsters and assist in eradicating fraud and corruption.

KZN Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube also welcomed the 12-year prison sentence. “This harsh prison sentence without the option of a fine or suspension is a welcome development and it should serve as a lesson to all public servants, and fraudsters in general, who disregard or attempt to disregard the code of conduct that prescribes that they execute their duties with integrity,” she said.

She said the department has since tightened the screws after one its employees facilitated the multi-million rand theft by circumventing the department’s complex system of check and balances.

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