Portia Sizani cleared of R1.2 million fraud conviction
Johannesburg – The fraud conviction of the wife of one of the country’s top diplomats has been set aside and prosecutors must now decide whether or not to retry her with a different magistrate presiding.
Nontuthuzelo Portia Sizani, the wife of South Africa’s ambassador to Germany and former ANC national executive committee member Stone Sizani, this week succeeded in her challenge of Port Elizabeth Specialised Commercial Crimes Court Magistrate Mputumi Mpofu’s decision to convict her on charges of fraud in March last year.
Sizani, whose husband is the ANC’s former chief whip in the National Assembly, sought to review and set aside the August 2019 ruling by Mpofu to declare her case was closed, and her subsequent decision to convict and cancel her release on warning and let her out on bail instead.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) opposed Sizani’s application but Judge Murray Lowe of Eastern Cape High Court in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) ruled in her favour.
Judge Lowe set aside Mpofu’s decision to close the defence’s case and “as a consequence necessarily the convictions are set aside”.
“The matter is referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Eastern Cape, to decide whether the applicant (Sizani) should be re-arraigned,” reads the judgment.
The judge also ruled that in the event that Sizani was re-arraigned, the trial must be before a different regional magistrate.
Judge Lowe found the NPA’s failure to accede to Sizani’s request for access to some of the evidence it claimed to have against her and to use it in her defence was a failure of justice and disclosed sufficient prejudice to justify the review.
Sizani was charged with fraud and money laundering for siphoning off R1.2 million at the Eastern Cape department of education, where she worked as an early childhood development co-ordinator, by appointing ghost teachers.
She was scheduled to be sentenced in March but her high court review was still pending.