Top ANC official Danny Msiza seeks separate trial in VBS looting case
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Pretoria - Limpopo ANC treasurer and VBS looting accused Danny Msiza seems to have turned on his co-accused, applying to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to be on trial separately.
Last week, 14 people, including former VBS officials as well as municipal workers, appeared before the court for the pre-trial.
They are accused of looting over R2.3 billion and collapsing the bank in in 2018. Community groups and individuals, mostly the elderly from rural Vhembe district, had invested their monies with the bank.
In court last week, Msiza’s lawyer said the separation of trial papers had been served on the State.
However, State prosecutor Hein van der Merwe opposed the motion for Msiza to have his trial separated.
Van der Merwe told the court that there were outstanding issues on the part of the legal representatives for the accused, including the separation of trial application.
The matter will still be heard on the same court on November 4.
Msiza has since stepped aside from all ANC duties in accordance with rule 25.70 of the party’s constitution, that all members who are indicted to appear in a court of law on a criminal charge, must step aside from their responsibilities until their matter is resolved.
The ANC boss voluntarily stepped aside in 2018 after he was named alongside former Vhembe mayor and provincial deputy chairperson, Florence Radzilani, in advocate Terry Motau’s “The Great Bank Heist” report that blew the lid off the scandal but was later installed back in his position after Limpopo premier and ANC chairperson, Stan Mathabatha, pleaded for their comeback.
The VBS matter had previously been postponed because several of the accused had changed legal representatives after the matter was transferred to the High Court from the Palm Ridge Commercial court in Ekurhuleni.
Legal expert, advocate Francois Botes SC, said it was unlikely that Msiza’s application would be granted.
Speaking to Pretoria News yesterday, Botes said a duplication of trials should be avoided by the court at all costs.
He said: “The basic principle that should be applied in an application for separation is prejudice.
“The court has to consider the prejudice that the applicant or the accused will suffer if a separation is not granted as against the prejudice that the other accused or the court will suffer if a separation is granted.
“The purpose of separation is premised on prejudice. What has to be avoided is multiplicity of actions. One should avoid a situation where more than one trial is conducted on the same facts between role-players regarding the same matter.
“It does not make sense for witnesses on behalf of the State to come and testify in another trial based on the same facts on the same alleged transgressions the accused are facing.
“It will be highly unlikely for the court to be prepared under these circumstances, specifically the VBS trial, to grant them a separate trial.”
All the accused, including former VBS chairperson Calvin Tshifhiwa Matodzi, former ANC Youth League leader Kabelo Matsepe, and chief financial officer Philip Truter, are charged with theft, fraud, money laundering, corruption, racketeering and contraventions of provisions in the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.
Truter, who is believed to be a State witness, pleaded guilty in a plea bargain and was sentenced to 10 years in jail.