Suspect helps cops nail prosecutor in ‘sting’
Uitenhage official accused of soliciting bribe appears in court
With recording equipment strapped to his body, money with recorded serial numbers in hand and a photographer nearby to capture the “sting”, a suspect managed to help police catch a prosecutor who was allegedly willing to throw out a case for cash.
The Uitenhage prosecutor, Thozama Theophilus Takane, 45, pleaded not guilty when he appeared in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court on Monday – but the state is confident it has an airtight case.
Takane, 45, allegedly pocketed a R1,500 bribe he solicited from Luvuyo Bokwe, one of two men accused of assault.
A nonchalant Takane, dressed in a dark suit and black rimmed glasses, pleaded not guilty to a charge of corruption and one of fraud.
His lawyer, George Malgas, told the court he would not, at this stage, disclose the basis of his defence.
Takane was arrested on April 23 2018 – the day of the “sting” – at the Uitenhage Magistrate’s Court following swift action by the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation (SCI) unit.
He was the prosecutor in the case against Bokwe, 46, and Nxaxho Mzezeleli Crosby, who were facing charges of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.
According to the court papers, Takane allegedly offered to withdraw the charges against the two men if he was paid R1,500.
Bokwe and Crosby agreed to make the alleged payment and Takane withdrew the charges.
The two men then reported the matter to the police and Takane was arrested shortly after the payment was made.
Investigating officer Captain Natalie Connelly told magistrate Hannes Claassen that she had been told about the case while investigating another matter in Port Elizabeth.
Connelly, who has worked for the SCI unit for the past 17 years, then contacted Bokwe and arranged a meeting with him.
“[We] went to Langa in Uitenhage and met with [Bokwe], who confirmed the information in the statement he gave to the police,” she said.
“[Takane] had [allegedly] requested money from [Bokwe and Crosby] to withdraw the charges against them.”
Connelly said she and her SCI partner had then approached the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to discuss the matter and decide what to do next.
After consulting with a senior state prosecutor, Connelly put in an application to the DPP to conduct an undercover operation. “The authorisation was granted under the code name Toureq,” she said.
After obtaining the R1,500 from the Mount Road police station’s finance office, Bokwe was asked to arrange a meeting with Takane.
Takane then met Bokwe, who was wearing a recording device, in one of the side streets next to the Durban Street court building in Uitenhage.
Connelly had made photocopies of the cash notes to record the serial numbers.
Photographs had also been taken of Takane allegedly taking the money from Bokwe.
“After the handover, I met [a fellow police officer] and Takane at the top of the stairs [on the first floor of the Uitenhage Magistrate’s Court], where I identified Takane as the man speaking to [Bokwe],” Connelly told the court.
After arresting Takane, Connelly asked him if they could discuss the matter somewhere private.
Before making their way to an empty courtroom nearby, Takane had asked for his supervisor to be present.
Connelly said that, after failing to find Takane’s supervisor, she had gone back to the courtroom where Takane had been taken.
“I saw [Takane] take something from his pocket and put it in the [courtroom] podium.”
She said the serial numbers on the money collected from the podium matched those of the notes allegedly handed to Takane by Bokwe.
Photographs of the notes were submitted to the court.
After his arrest, Takane was taken to the Uitenhage police station for processing.
Takane had nearly R2,000 on him when he was arrested.
State prosecutor Tjaard van Zyl indicated to the court that the state would be calling Bokwe and Crosby to testify.
Asked about the details of the assault GBH charges against Bokwe and Crosby, and whether the case was still open, police spokesperson Captain Gerda Swart said the docket had been closed in October.
She was unable to access further information about the case due to the load-shedding.
Takane is also charged with fraud, related to R500 he had allegedly asked the mother of a minor to pay him, saying he would use the money to pay her son’s fine if he was found guilty of theft.
The state says Takane could not guarantee that the woman’s son would be sentenced to a fine.
Takane was released on R5,000 bail and part of his bail conditions is that he is not allowed to set foot in the Uitenhage or KwaNobuhle Magistrate’s Court buildings.
The case continues...