Crooked bishop gets 12 years

Mag­is­trate blasts church­man who lived large on kick­backs from con­trac­tor

The Herald (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE - Kathryn Kim­ber­ley kim­ber­leyk@ti­soblack­star.co.za

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.

SA­MUEL BAN­ZANA

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