Durban - A taxi boss facing fraud charges for allegedly masquerading as an eThekwini Municipality procurement officer and who promised people lucrative tenders in exchange for kickbacks, has been granted R15 000 bail.
Zakhile Jason Mthembu, 34, appeared at the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday facing two counts of fraud totalling more than R2 million - and an attempted murder charge.
A co-accused in the attempted murder charge, Mondli Duma, also appeared, but did not apply for bail.
Magistrate Logan Perumal heard from an affidavit read by prosecutor Blackie Swart that Mthembu allegedly defrauded Mark Naidoo and Jay Harripersadh of Westmead Haulers (a transport company) of R2.2m last August.
The State alleges this was paid to Mthembu for various services rendered in the transfer of a R50m tender for the upgrade of roads in eManzimtoti.
The court heard Mthembu had been introduced to the pair as Sandile Charles Ngcobo, and that he claimed he was second-in-charge of procurement at eThekwini.
Mthembu was introduced by Khanysiwe Agness Ntuli, who claimed to have “contacts” in government for contracts.
Ntuli was also allegedly defrauded of R50 000.
This fee was allegedly in exchange for two tenders - R4.5m for cleaning the M4 from Blue Lagoon to La Mercy, and R6.9m for upgrading roads at Winklespruit, near eManzimtoti.
In his affidavit opposing bail, prosecutor Swart alleged that Mthembu had attempted to murder one of the complain-ants (Ntuli) by shooting at her six times in September.
He alleged the case involved corruption and that Mthembu had misrepresented his identification.
Swart said Mthembu could also continue exploiting the vulnerability of the public if granted bail.
However, defence advocate Fanie Slabbert rejected the State’s claim that there was a strong case against Mthembu.
In an affidavit requesting bail, Slabbert said there was no evidence Mthembu had been involved in the attempted murder and the fraud charges.
“The charges are weak as though they are non-existent. There was no monies paid and no financial contracts. The prosecutor must be dreaming if he thinks there is a possibility of a 10-year sentence to my client.”
Slabbert claimed that investigating officer Warrant Officer Kumarasan Pillay fabricated evidence and had misled the court, although Mthembu was positively identified in an identity parade.
Slabbert said his client owned a fleet of taxis with 28 people in his employ.
He had a monthly income of around R40 000 and owned vehicles valued at more than R5m - among them a Mercedes Benz, Golf R32 and an Audi A6.
In granting Mthembu bail, the magistrate raised some concerns about the strength of the State’s case.
He said the State was going to rely on a weak case and he could not understand why the investigating officer, from the time of the alleged offences last year until now, had not appeared or said anything further relating to the case.
Mthembu is to report to the eManzimtoti SAPS every Friday and Monday.
The co-accused in the attempted murder charge, Duma, was remanded in custody.
The matter will proceed in October.