Six years to run with ex-attorney’s previous term for theft conviction
A“sentence of mercy” was handed down on former attorney and magistrate Pumla Silinga, 48, after she pleaded guilty on two counts of theft in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court yesterday.
Silinga – the estranged wife of Coega Development Corporation chief executive Pepi Silinga – was sentenced by magistrate Johannes Claassen to another six years’ imprisonment, relating to two charges of theft amounting to R232 171.
This is on top of a sentence of six years on a previous charge of theft which she is serving at the West Bank Correctional Centre in East London.
Despite this sentence, Silinga was treated as a first offender as the most recent charges predate her first conviction in 2016.
The new sentence is, however, a merciful one, Claassen said in his judgment, as it will run concurrently with her current sentence.
“Half [of the sentence] is suspended for a period of five years, and [you will be eligible for parole] in 18 months, so it will not affect your current parole date,” Claassen said.
Silinga will be eligible for parole on August 19 next year, after she has served three years of her sentence.
She was first convicted in August 2016 for stealing an amount of R95 000 from a client’s trust account but was charged with two more counts of theft when similar complaints emerged, dating back to 2007 and 2014.
In the first of these, Silinga misappropriated a government housing subsidy of R52 171 granted to Jongile Nodlavu for personal use, while in the second she used a home loan of R180 000 belonging to Nombulelo Nganase for personal gain.
Silinga, who was responsible for keeping these funds in a trust account until it could be used to buy houses for Nodlavu and Nganase, admitted her guilt in a written plea to the court.
Her attorney, Advocate Sazi Nyati, asked Claassen to consider the mitigating circumstances, which included Silinga’s efforts towards rehabilitation.
“She is studying for her LLM degree with Unisa while serving her prison sentence,” Nyati said. “She has learned her lesson and is trying her best to turn her life around.”
Nyati also pointed out that Silinga’s family had compensated both Nodlavu and Nganase for the full amounts stolen from them.
State advocate Bongo Mvinjelwa confirmed that payments had been made to the complainants and said this recompense should count in Silinga’s favour, even though she had committed a serious offence.
“I take into account your remorse and the fact that you started to rehabilitate yourself,” Claassen said.
“It is an aggravating factor that you were an officer of the court and as such you were in a position of trust and should have known better than to steal money that didn’t belong to you.”