Crooked bishop jailed for 12 years

Samuel Mzukisi Banzana

Two brothers who lent nearly R3-million to a bishop, who in turn used the money to fund his lavish lifestyle, watched from the back of the court yesterday as the man who bribed and threatened them was finally led to the holding cells to start his 12-year prison sentence.

A desperate last-minute bid by Samuel Mzukisi Banzana, of Umzi waseTopiya, for leave to appeal against his conviction and sentence was dismissed by the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court.

Magistrate Louis Claassen said corruption could be likened to a cancer.

“It destroys the moral fibre of the nation. When it is discovered, the damage has already been done,” Claassen said.

Banzana, 54, was convicted in July on four counts of corruption.

He was employed as general manager of the Mzingizi Development Trust (MDT) at the time of the offences.

The trust was established in 1992, to improve the living standards of impoverished Nelson Mandela Bay residents.

The MDT was then appointed by the Eastern Cape Department of Housing, Local Government and Traditional Affairs for the development of several housing projects.

After a lengthy trial, the court found that Banzana had accepted kickbacks to influence the procurement of the contractors.

Claassen said yesterday the case appeared to be typical and an example of most development projects in South Africa.

“Public funds are made available for the development of housing for the poorest of the poor.

“These monies are often embezzled or utilised for reasons not intended,” he said.

“Contracts are awarded not on merit, but often on the basis of kickbacks or gratuities to those who allocate these contracts.”

Brothers Wentzel and Jocelyn Meyers, of MOM Construction CC, had told the court how Banzana had solicited enough money from them in 2007 to be able to purchase a brand new BMW 750i and settle the bond on his luxury Lovemore Heights home.

The bishop later tried to solicit more money from them and, in exchange, offered them a project to build a further 6 600 houses.

When the brothers refused, he threatened them against testifying in court.

Claassen said on the bishop’s own evidence, he had earned a salary of R36 000 a month and could in no way afford the lavish lifestyle he led.

His monthly expenses – according to reports before court – of R100 000 exceeded his salary by up to three times.

“It is clear that the money was utilised for luxuries and lavish expenses and was not solicited due to a lack of necessities on behalf of the accused and his family.

“He lived in the lap of luxury with the funds obtained.”

Claassen said Banzana showed no remorse for his actions and had maintained his innocence even after his conviction.

He said Banzana had a law degree and, being legally trained, should have had no doubt regarding the wrongfulness of his actions or their consequences.

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