Durban – Mike Mabuyakhulu, the African National Congress (ANC) member tasked with convening the party’s interim leadership structure in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), was granted R50 000 bail at the Durban Commercial Crime Court on Wednesday afternoon.
Mabuyakhulu, who is listed as accused number 16, appeared alongside eight other co-accused in a matter relating to alleged graft that took place between 2012 and 2013 when he was MEC for economic development and tourism.
All of the accused were charged with corruption, fraud, theft and money laundering.
One of the more well-known co-accused is politically connected businessman Mabheleni Ntuli, a known backer of President Jacob Zuma.
The court heard that the department Mabuyakhulu then headed up forked out R28 million for the North Sea Jazz Festival that was supposed to be held in November 2012, although the event was cancelled.
The department’s former head of department, Desmond Golding, despite knowing the event was cancelled, did not stop payments, which ended up in the bank accounts of several of the accused and or the entities they owned. The state alleged that Mabuyakhulu also fraudulently received payments.
Appearing for Mabuyakhulu, advocate Paul Jorgensen, Shaukat Karim and Tahima Lockhat told African News Agency (ANA) before proceedings started that they had “no idea” what the fraud and corruption charges related to.
Jorgensen said that a warrant of arrest had been issued for Mabuyakhulu on Tuesday and his client had handed himself over on Wednesday morning.
Mabuyakhulu told the court that he intended to plead not guilty and was able to pay R30 000 bail, but the state, which did not oppose bail, was seeking R100 000 each for him and Golding because as public servants they had been entrusted with overseeing public funds.
Mabuyakhulu’s legal team argued that everyone was equal before the law and that bail should not be increased because Mabuyakhulu once held a high ranking position within the province.
Bail was eventually set at R50 000.
On 23 January, Mabuyakhulu was appointed convenor of the ANC’s provincial interim leadership structure and, together with co-ordinator Sihle Zikalala, was tasked with readying the province to run a fresh provincial conference after the Pietermaritzburg High Court found last year that the party’s November 2015 conference was illegal and invalid.
This is not the first time the former MEC has found himself inside a courtroom.
Mabuyakhulu once faced charges in the “Amigos” case, of racketeering, fraud and corruption for his part in allegedly soliciting a R1-million bribe for the ANC from Uruguayan businessman Gaston Savoi who provided water purification units to the KZN Department of Health at a cost of R144-million.
The charges were officially dropped in 2012.
The accused will appear again on 6 April.
African News Agency/ANA