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The prosecution in the corruption trial of KwaZulu-Natal businessman Lucky Moloi and his four co-accused received a tongue lashing on Monday after the start of the trial was delayed again.
The five appeared briefly in the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court yesterday when the case was adjourned to March 11 next year and set down for a week.
Magistrate Jaco Jordaan expressed his unhappiness with the delay.
“This is unacceptable,” he said, adding that the delays cost the accused a lot of money because they had to retain counsel.
State prosecutor Bulelwa Vimbani, who took over the case from Rema Mahabeer, who has since resigned, said the trial was due to have begun yesterday.
However, a misunderstanding between the prosecutor’s office and the defence had resulted in senior counsel for the defence committing themselves to other trial matters under the misconception that the trial was not starting.
Defence advocate Siphiwe Moloi submitted that prosecutor Sasha Jacobs had communicated to them that the trial would not be starting yesterday.
Jordaan lambasted Jacobs for taking “unilateral decisions” and described her conduct as out of line.
Moloi appeared alongside his alleged cohorts, former bodyguard Thembinkosi Xaba, former Msunduzi deputy mayor Alpha Shelembe, his wife, Joyful Shelembe, and his sister, Nelisiwe Shelembe.
A sixth accused, Neville Watts, a former estate agent, made a secret appearance in a Durban court earlier this year. He pleaded guilty and indicated he was prepared to give evidence for the prosecution.
Watts was fined R50 000, half of which was suspended, and sentenced to a period of correctional supervision.
Another accused, former Msunduzi councillor, Themba Zungu, has died.
The accused are charged with colluding to persuade the uMgungundlovu District Municipality to buy the MIB Building in Langalibalele Street in 2003 at the inflated price of R6 850 000.
The State alleges that Watts, Zungu and Alpha Shelembe shared a R1 million “commission” between them.
The other accused are alleged to have helped launder the money to conceal its origin.
The property in question was bought by the district municipality for office and parking space.