PLEASE NOTE: The Grahamstown High Court has since set aside the conviction and sentencing of the two former police officers. Read more: Court clears ex-cops of any wrongdoing
High-ranking officers given four-year terms for defeating ends of justice
Two high-ranking Port Elizabeth policemen have each been sentenced to an effective four years in prison for defeating the ends of justice after one officer committed fraud and the other tried to cover it up.
Lieutenant-Colonel Mabelandile Mlilwana and Colonel Malefane Mapena were both released on bail in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court yesterday, pending their appeals on both conviction and sentence.
The officers, who have both since resigned from their positions at the KwaNobuhle police station, maintain their innocence.
Mlilwana was branch commander of the crime investigation unit at KwaNobuhle at the time, while Mapena was the station commissioner.
In October 2010, Mlilwana unlawfully used an SA Police Service vehicle on an unofficial journey, all the while pretending that he had to travel to Mount Frere in the Transkei to testify in a court case.
Then, to cover his tracks, he convinced a detective at the Mount Frere branch to furnish him with an affidavit to that effect.
State advocate Tjaart van Zyl said Mlilwana had gone to these lengths because he had been asked to testify in the disciplinary hearing of a colleague between October 12 and October 16 2010, and did not want to.
He accordingly informed the disciplinary committee that he had to be in Mount Frere during that period for another case. He then documented his journey in the SAPS logbook.
Van Zyl said the Mount Frere case had already been finalised in March 2006. After a charge of fraud was reported against Mlilwana, Mapena tried to cover for his superior by concealing the relevant logbooks.
When detectives demanded to see the logbooks, Mapena refused to hand them over and chased them out of his office. The books have since disappeared.
Mlilwana was convicted earlier this year of fraud and obstruction of justice, while Mapena was found guilty of obstruction of justice.
Magistrate Hannes Claassen said in sentencing yesterday that the blameworthiness of both was high. Claassen sentenced them each to seven years in prison, with three of the years suspended for five years.
In applying for leave to appeal both conviction and sentence moments later, lawyers for Mlilwana and Mapena submitted that the facts before the court did not amount to the crime of defeating or obstructing the administration of justice.