DA councillor Victor Manyati abstained from the vote which ultimately led to the removal of speaker Jonathan Lawack. PHOTO: Raahil Sain/ANA

Port Elizabeth - Former undertaker turned Nelson Mandela Bay councillor Victor Manyati's fraud trial was delayed on Monday after he appointed an attorney at the very last minute.

Manyati appeared alongside his co-accused in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court, where his trial was meant to get underway.

During 2013, Manyati was an undertaker at Zincedeni Funeral Services. 

Manyati’s co-accused are his son, Mandisa Sibham, Lucky Swartbooi, Sakhumzi Bazi and Phumelela Radu.

Bazi has since absconded and has still not been found by authorities. 

The state alleges Bazi took out a funeral policy known as the Future Builder Family Funeral Plan in June 2013, which was underwritten by Metropolitan Life Limited.

The policy covered three individuals he claimed were his aunt, uncle and cousin.

According to the indictment, the three were not his relatives and the man he claimed was his uncle, Phindiwe Mzwelitye, had already died in October 2012.

The state alleges further that in January 2014, acting in common purpose with Manyati, Radu, Swartbooi and Sibham, Bazi submitted a death claim for Mzwelitye.

A false abridged death certificate accompanied the application stating that Mzwelitye had died on January 20, 2014, two years after his actual death.

Two thumbprints, purporting to be those of the deceased, were also placed on the death certificate, but it later transpired that the prints were Sibham’s.

Furthermore, Swartbooi claimed that he had examined the body of Mzwelitye on January 1, 2014 while Manyati said he had collected the body on January 20, with the “burial” scheduled to take place a few days later.

The state alleges the insurer was prejudiced in the amount of R30 000.

During court proceedings on Monday, attorney Danie Gouws said he was approached by Manyati and Sibham during October and was asked to represent them at the trial. 

Their previous lawyer, Zolile Ngqeza had since withdrawn from the case. 

Gouws said he was not in a position to proceed with the trial because he had not obtained copies of the docket. He asked for the matter to be postponed for consultation. 

Prosecutor Wilhelm De Villiers said he was disappointed that the two men had waited until the last minute to switch legal counsel, he however did not object to a request for a postponement. 

The case was postponed to November 19 to allow Gouws to consult with his clients. A new trial date will be set then.

Earlier in August, Manyati controversially abstained from a vote at a Nelson Mandela council meeting which saw the ousting of Athol Trollip, of the Democratic Alliance (DA), as mayor.

The Democratic Alliance revoked his membership, but the decision was successfully challenged in the high court which ruled he would remain a DA member until the party had concluded disciplinary processes against him.

African News Agency (ANA)