Politics loses out to Manyati fraud case

Undertaker-turned-DA councillor Mbulelo Manyati denied a day off from his fraud trial

The rule of law trumps today’s important vote on who will rule Nelson Mandela Bay.

This was the view of Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court magistrate Johannes Claassen, who denied undertaker-turned-DA councillor Mbulelo Manyati a day off from his fraud trial to participate in the vote on a motion of no confidence in mayor Athol Trollip.

A previous Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality council meeting which was meant to decide on the fate of mayor Athol Trollip was 'permanently adjourned'.
A previous Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality council meeting which was meant to decide on the fate of mayor Athol Trollip was 'permanently adjourned'.
Image: Werner Hills

The motion also seeks to remove Trollip’s entire mayoral committee, along with council speaker Jonathan Lawack.

The ANC will also be short of councillors for the vote after another Port Elizabeth court sentenced ANC heavyweight Andile Lungisa to an effective two years in prison yesterday for assaulting a fellow Bay councillor.

And late last month, ANC councillor Bongo Nombiba was handed a five-year prison sentence for fraud.

Claassen said, politics or no politics, there would be no postponement for Manyati.

Earlier, prosecutor Wilhelm de Villiers told the court the matter had been placed on the roll for three days, but he was unable to proceed further yesterday due to another case.

He then asked that the case be rolled over to today.

However Manyati’s lawyer, Zolile Ngqeza, objected, saying he was ready to proceed.

He then said Manyati would be busy today with an important council meeting, which included the vote of no confidence, and asked for a postponement to tomorrow.

“My client is a DA councillor and his vote might be very critical for the metro.

“I request the matter be postponed,” he said.

But Claassen was having none of it.

“Politics is no reason to postpone the case. We will proceed tomorrow [today],” he said.

Today’s motion, a third attempt but the second to be faced by Trollip since he took office, was brought by the EFF in March after party leader Julius Malema announced in parliament that the party would teach the DA a lesson for its position on land expropriation without compensation.

Previous attempts to debate the motion failed after two special council meetings collapsed amid chaos.

The motions that seek to dissolve the mayoral committee and remove Lawack will also be debated.

Trollip is likely to have the support of PA councillor Marlon Daniels, who joined the DA-led coalition recently as the mayoral committee member for roads and transport.

But if Manyati attends his court case, it will leave Trollip short a seat, with the DA and its coalition partners COPE, the ACDP and Patriotic AlliNgqeza ance having a total of 59 seats.

The opposition, on the other hand, is short two seats after Nombiba and Lungisa’s sentencing, bringing the total of seats between the ANC, UDM, EFF, AIC and United Front to 58.

Before the alleged offence, Manyati was an undertaker at Zincedeni Funeral Services

Manyati’s co-accused are his son, Mandisa Sibham, Dr Lucky Swartbooi, Sakhumzi Bhazi and Phumelela Radu.

However, Bazi has since absconded.

The state alleges Bazi took out a funeral policy known as the Future Builder Family Funeral Plan on June 12 2013 – which was underwritten by Metropolitan Life Limited.

The policy covered three individuals he claimed were his aunt, uncle and cousin.

The state alleges the three were not his relatives and that the man he claimed was his uncle, Phindiwe Mzwelitye, had already died in October the previous year.

The state alleges further that on January 28 2014 and acting in common purpose with Manyati, Radu, Swartbooi and Sibham, Bazi submitted a death claim for Mzwelitye.

A false abridged death certificate accompanied the application stating that Mzwelitye had died on January 20 2014 – two years after his actual death.

Two thumbprints, purporting to be those of the deceased, were also placed on the death certificate, but it later transpired that the prints were Sibham’s.

Swartbooi, who has a previous fraud conviction, claimed that he had examined the body of Mzwelitye on January 1 2014, while Manyati said he had collected the body on January 20, with the “burial” scheduled to take place a few days later.

The state alleges that the insurer was prejudiced in the amount of R30 000.