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Msomi's lawyer wants R8m theft case withdrawn

Welcome Msomi and his lawyer Benito Mangoleleat the Palm Ridge magistrate's court./Veli Nhlapo
Welcome Msomi and his lawyer Benito Mangoleleat the Palm Ridge magistrate's court./Veli Nhlapo

The lawyer representing convicted theatre guru Welcome Msomi, who has suffered a major stroke, wants his criminal case withdrawn.

Msomi was found guilty of theft and fraud last month for stealing R8m from the Living Legends Legacy Programme (LLLP) and is due to be sentenced on November 28 in the South Gauteng High Court sitting in Palm Ridge.

Two weeks ago Msomi was left paralysed, according to his lawyer Benito Mangolele, due to the stroke.

Mangolele said he would make a representation to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to have Msomi's criminal case withdrawn because the acclaimed playwright was unable to speak.

"Msomi suffered a stroke two weeks ago. I spoke to his doctor about his condition. Last week I flew to Durban to see him at hospital and he was not in a good shape," Mangolele said.

"I am waiting for all his medical records so that I can make representation to have his plea and the case withdrawn. Welcome cannot speak; I don't even think he saw me when I visited him."

Msomi was admitted at St Augustine Hospital in Berea, Durban, where he is still under observation.

The 76-year-old's poor health began in July when he was rushed to the same hospital after he suffered a diabetic coma.

He was arrested by the Hawks in Durban in March this year. Msomi, who was on R200,000 bail, had pleaded guilty to 61 counts of theft.

According to court papers, Msomi started transferring the money from the FNB trust account to his own personal account on September 18, the day the money was transferred into the trust account from the department of arts & culture.

He allegedly went on a 19-day withdrawal spree that ranged from a mere R40 to R350,000 at a time.

The disappearance of the funds was discovered in January by acting chairperson of LLLP, Letta Mbulu, who opened a case of fraud at Bramley police station. The case was later transferred to the Hawks' serious commercial crime investigation unit.

NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane refused to say if they would oppose Msomi's bid to have the case withdrawn on medical grounds.

"The sentencing proceedings are yet to be heard," Mjonondwane said.

Criminal lawyer William Booth said it would not be easy to stop the prosecution. "There will have to be compelling grounds; a case where evidence is already presented cannot be withdrawn."

Msomi's family refused to comment yesterday, saying his health issues were a private and confidential matter.

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