Rubben Mohlaloga
Johannesburg - Lawyers for ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of SA) chairperson Rubben Mohlaloga, former Land Bank acting chief executive Phillemon Mohlahlane, and attorney Dinga Nkhwashu were granted leave to appeal after the trio were on Thursday sentenced in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court for defrauding the Land Bank in 2008.

Mohlaloga was sentenced to 20 years behind bars for fraud and Nkhwashu to 24 years for fraud and money laundering, while pensioner Mohlahlane was given seven years for fraud.

But Makhoba’s ruling to grant leave to appeal on grounds that the sentences could be reviewed by the high court saw the men who defrauded the Land Bank sidestep prison, again.

Their bail was extended after their conviction in January last year.

On Thursday, the magistrate granted Mohlaloga bail of R70 000, while fixing Nkhwashu’s at R100 000 and Mohlahlane’s at R30 000. Conditions include reporting to police stations near their homes three times a week.

Prosecutor Dries Janse van Rensburg proved the State’s case that the three stole R6 million from the Land Bank’s agriculture scheme set up to empower black farmers.

A former deputy president of the ANC Youth League, Mohlaloga was an MP and chairperson of the portfolio committee on agriculture when he pocketed the money in 2008.

The Asset Forfeiture Unit seized a farm and BMW car from him following his arrest.

The unit has brought another forfeiture application against Mohlaloga and the other two.

Mohlahlane and Nkhwashu colluded with Mohlaloga to have the money transferred from the Land Bank’s coffers. It landed in a trust account controlled by Nkhwashu.

Makhoba had some harsh words for Mohlaloga for stealing money that was meant to assist ordinary black people. “I was surprised when he took to the stand and kept justifying (receiving the money) as a grant. Are you trying to say you were entitled to those millions?

“I must say that he never showed remorse. In his mind, he still thinks he was entitled to the money.”

Mohlaloga appeared to believe he should not be sanctioned because others he knew had got away for committing similar fraud, said the magistrate.

Nkhwashu had no defence at all and was arrogant during trial, Makhoba said. He added that he found it difficult to understand why Nkhwashu thought he would never be asked to account for the money.

“Nkhwashu, you deposited the money into your various accounts. It’s theft. It’s fraud,” said Makhoba.

Mohlahlane, a pensioner who is now pastor at a local church in Bela Bela, Limpopo, received a lesser sentence because he did not receive large amounts of money from the fraud.

The trio were now headed to the high court to appeal their sentences. They could also try their luck with the conviction.

It remained to be seen if Mohlaloga would keep his position as chairperson of Icasa following his sentencing.

He had kept it after the January 2018 conviction, with attempts by Parliament to remove him failing. 

@BonganiNkosi87

The Star