Portia Sizani -- wife of former ANC Chief Whip Stone Sizani -- dressed in Gucci, drove off to pay her bail after she was convicted of fraud. Picture: Raahil Sain/ANA
Port Elizabeth - Convicted fraudster Portia Sizani -- wife of South Africa’s ambassador to Germany and former African National Congress Chief Whip Stone Sizani -- dressed in Gucci shoes and a matching handbag drove off to pay her bail after she was convicted in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court on Friday. 

Sizani defrauded the Eastern Cape Education Department out of more than R1.2 million by processing several fraudulent applications for Grade R teaching posts.

Sizani accompanied by a group of friends and family was released on bail of R5000 pending sentencing proceedings which will kick off in July. 

Technically still in custody on Friday morning, Sizani confirmed to the African News Agency (ANA) that she would pay her bail at the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court as she drove off with friends in a private vehicle unaccompanied by the police.

More than six years after her arrest in 2012, Sizani appeared stone-faced after she was found guilty of 15 counts of fraud and nine counts of money laundering. 

She was earlier acquitted on six counts of money laundering and one count of fraud. 

Following the lengthy judgment which spanned over a period of two days, Sizani said the law must take its course. 

"I'll allow the law to take its course, I’ve always been open,” Sizani said. 

Following the verdict, Sizani said she was uncertain if she would live in Germany with her husband or stay in Port Elizabeth. 

There was confusion as to where Sizani resided, with State Prosecutor Ronelle Brink under the impression that Sizani stayed in Port Elizabeth with her children.

However, Sizani clarified to the court that her family stayed in Germany with her husband and she flew over to Port Elizabeth whenever she needed to be at her court case. The issue arose after Magistrate Mputumi Mpofu indicated that Sizani’s status had changed and was now a convicted criminal. 

Defence advocate Johan Wessels asked the court to extend Sizani’s bail as she was out on warning all along. 

The court did not confiscate Sizani’s passport and she was warned to cooperate with the probation officer who will compile a report for sentencing proceedings.

Mpofu had earlier said that Sizani was the “mastermind” behind the crime and used vulnerable people “dangling a golden carrot” with the promise of giving them jobs at the education department. 

Mpofu said that Sizani took advantage of clueless victims and harassed them to pay over monies to her. At one point Mpofu criticized Sizani in that her defence did not go further than the mere denial. 

Sizani was the Early Childhood Development (ECD) district co-ordinator at the time she appointed “ghost teachers” and pocketed their pay during 2009 and 2010.

She would obtain the personal details of teachers, apply for posts on their behalf, and falsify the principal’s signature of approval. Once the money was paid into the teachers’ accounts, Sizani would inform them that a mistake had been made and the money should be paid to her.

The ECD programme provided for the appointment of Grade R teachers at Eastern Cape schools.

Sizani was arrested in December 2012 and the trial was delayed for more than a year due to her alleged ill health.

Sizani started working for the department as a teacher in East London in 1991 and slowly worked her way up the ranks. Her husband was the former education MEC and resigned from that position in 2002. He was also the ANC's chief whip in Parliament from 2013 until he resigned to become SA's ambassador to Germany in 2016.

Sentencing proceedings will get underway on July 1.

African News Agency (ANA)