Former Eastern Cape MEC and political heavyweight Max Mamase’s fraud and corruption case has ended with the Zwelitsha Regional Court finding his mental state makes it impossible for him to defend himself, but – in a legal twist – also ruled he probably did commit the crimes with which he was charged.
As a strong-running member of the victorious Kwazakhele Rugby Union (Kwaru) side in the 1970s, Max Mamase could deal with most obstacles on the field of play.
Later, as regional director of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa), he was highly regarded as a negotiator when apartheid was being shoved out and a democratic dispensation was being ushered in.
But, after being ensconced as a member of the executive council (MEC) in the Eastern Cape for two terms of the provincial government, greed got the better of Mamase, as he pushed through the department of agriculture a dodgy R15.6-million land deal.
The stress of dealing with the corruption charges that flowed from his illegal dealings proved too much – multiple strokes have confined him to a wheelchair and made him incapable of performing everyday tasks.
The corruption case against Mamase has now been closed, after prosecutors accepted the findings of a three-person panel at Grahamstown’s Fort England Hospital that he is mentally incapacitated and incapable of understanding the proceedings sufficiently to stand trial and defend himself.
He has not been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. However, in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, the Zwelitsha Regional Court issued a judgment it was probable Mamase committed the fraud.
The court’s finding, using the balance of probabilities test rather than a finding beyond reasonable doubt, was based on the prosecution’s available evidence.
Mamase was found to have accepted R360 000 as a kickback for signing off on the department’s purchase of land near Addo in an empowerment deal while he was MEC for agriculture.
He was also found to have contravened the Public Finance Management Act for binding the department to pay R15.6-million for the land when he was not authorised to do so, and fraud.
The court ordered Mamase be admitted as an involuntary mental health patient at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital. The order means Mamase will attend the hospital as an out-patient from his home in East London.
Co-accused and ex-wife Neo Moerane’s case will be dealt with on January 30.
The state is awaiting representations from her lawyer before deciding whether to continue to prosecute her.
Charges are also still pending against a company, Quickvest 54, which is represented by Moerane.
– Ray Hartle