Former Scorpions investigating director Malala Geophrey Ledwaba has finally had charges against him dropped after 11 years fighting them.
MORE than 11 years after he was arrested for fraud and theft, former investigating director of the then Scorpions, Malala Geophrey Ledwaba, has been vindicated.

Ledwaba, a former advocate, was arrested in October 2006 along with Ayanda Dlodlo, now Minister of Home Affairs, when she was a special director in the Directorate of Special Operations.

The charges followed allegations that Ledwaba was involved in fraud and theft from the Scorpion’s confidential fund to pay for special operations and for informants.

The theft charge brought against Dlodlo was at the time withdrawn, but Ledwaba had to face 15 charges in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria.

In 2014, he was convicted on two fraud and three theft charges, and the following year sentenced to an effective 10-year jail term.

Ledwaba was adamant from the start that the charges were trumped-up and vowed to prove his innocence.

His first attempt to appeal his convictions and sentence failed. He petitioned for leave to appeal, which was later granted. Ledwaba remained out of jail pending the outcome of his appeal.

Two Johannesburg judges sitting in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, eventually upheld his appeal.

But it was a struggle for Ledwaba, whose name was struck from the roll of advocates a few months after his conviction in 2014.

“I asked the General Council of the Bar to hold off with this until the outcome of the appeal, as I was confident that I would be vindicated, but they refused.”

Judge Zeenat Carelse, who wrote the judgment in which the appeal was upheld, found that Ledwaba had never received a fair trial. She had some scathing words for the officers of the State who prosecuted him at the time.

Judge Carelse said the State had provided no reasonable explanation for its failure to call relevant witnesses during his criminal trial.

“There is a constitutional duty on the State to place the truth before the court, whether it is in their favour or not.

“There is a basic duty on the State to produce its evidence in a truthful, unbiased manner on consideration of the State’s failure to present relevant evidence to the court, or to call relevant witnesses, the fairness of the trial must be called into question.

“This failure resulted in an unfair trial,” she said.

To make matters worse, the State subjected Ledwaba to a lengthy trial resulting in a jail sentence. But on appeal, the State for the first time conceded that it had failed to prove the charge of fraud and theft involving R45000 which it was claimed Ledwaba “stole” from the special operations’ fund.

In another fraud charge against him on which he was convicted, which involved R150000 from the special operations fund, one of the main witnesses against Ledwaba was former controversial Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit head Lawrence Mrwebi.

Mrwebi had also earlier been struck from the roll of advocates, together with former National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) second-in-command Nomgcobo Jiba, after they were found to have lied to the court (in other matters) and unfit to serve the advocate’s profession.

Regarding Mrwebi’s evidence during Ledwaba’s trial, Judge Carelse said it was filled with contradictions and inconsistencies.

“It was premised on an attack on the character of the appellant (Ledwaba).”

The judge noted that during cross-examination, Mrwebi was questioned that he even during the trial of later police commissioner Jackie Selebi, claimed that Ledwaba had stolen from the NPA.

The judge said Mrwebi conceded he had lied about certain aspects.

She remarked that the impression gained from the evidence was that the State’s case was based on mere suspicion and that Ledwaba was required to prove his innocence, rather than the State proving his guilt.

Ledwaba, before he resigned from the Scorpions in 2006, reported directly to the then head of the National Director of Public Prosecutions, advocate Leonard McCarthy.

The two did not see eye to eye and Ledwaba said he believed McCarthy was behind the charges. “I am happy I have been vindicated, but I hate it that people use State institutions to persecute others.”

He said he would consider his options before deciding on the way forward.