ENVIRONMENT & SCIENCE WRITER
ON DECEMBER 11, 2006, former Western Cape environment and planning MEC David Malatsi stood in the dock of the Bellville Regional Court and listened impassively as he was sentenced to five years in jail for corruption.
He had been found guilty of receiving R100 000 from Italian businessman Riccardo Agusta in April 2002 to “grease” the approval process for the development application for a huge R550 million golf estate at Roodefontein, just outside Plettenberg Bay.
Tomorrow, more than five and a half years later, Malatsi’s appeal against his sentence is finally to be heard by the Western Cape High Court.
Malatsi, pictured, had been in the dock with his erstwhile political colleague, former Western Cape premier Peter Marais, during a marathon trial lasting just short of three years.
They had been arrested following raids on their homes in February 2003 by the Scorpions, who were looking for evidence connected to the Roodefontein corruption allegations that had been swirling since the previous year.
On October 4, 2006, Malatsi was convicted of receiving the R100 000 from Agusta, but he was acquitted on a second charge involving a R300 000 donation for the New National Party from Agusta, handed initially to Marais.
Marais, who faced the same two corruption charges, was acquitted. The State wanted to appeal against Marais’s acquittal, but leave to do so was refused by the Western Cape High Court in February 2010.
A month before the politicians’ trial started in George on November 17, 2003 – it later moved to Bellville – Agusta appeared at a quietly arranged Western Cape High Court hearing to confirm his plea bargain, pleading guilty, in return for a R1m fine, to two charges of corruption relating to the controversial Roodefontein deal.
Agusta flew in from London and confirmed making the R400 000 donation in two sums – R300 000 handed to Marais and R100 000 to Malatsi. He did not testify at their trial.
Although Agusta was nominally the developer of Roodefontein, it emerged during Malatsi’s trial that it was owned by the son of Vito Palazzolo, the alleged Mafia kingpin now in a Thailand jail waiting to hear whether he will be extradited to Italy to serve a nine-year sentence.
Malatsi – at one time deputy minister for social development in Thabo Mbeki’s cabinet – told the Scorpions that he’d met the Sicilian, whom he referred to as “Mr Robert”, up to three times a week in the months before forcing through the Roodefontein approval in early May 2002.