Judge Pres. Nsi­bande’s star halted by cor­rup­tion charges

Sunday Observer - - NEWS - STO­RIES BY THEMBEKA DLAMINI

No one knows where his ca­reer could have led him had he not been charged with fraud and cor­rup­tion for his com­pany’s al­leged role in the Cen­tral Trans­port Au­thor­ity E11mil­lion case which is yet to reach con­clu­sion.

In­dus­trial Court Judge Pres­i­dent Si­fiso Nsi­bande, who was ac­quit­ted of all charges this past week, was ar­rested at the height of his rise within the ech­e­lons of the Ju­di­ciary which had seen him con­firmed and pro­moted within 13 months of his ap­point­ment on act­ing ba­sis.

Nsi­bande was en­gaged by the Ju­di­cial Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (JSC) as act­ing judge of the In­dus­trial Court in March 2008 af­ter hav­ing been part­ner at Maphanga Howe Ma­suku Nsi­bande for over a decade.

The soft­spo­ken judge was pro­moted to post of pres­i­dent on April 2009, only to be halted less than 15 months later when he was ar­rested and charged with former CTA Trans­port Gen­eral Man­ager Poly­carp Dlamini, CTA Se­nior Me­chan­i­cal En­gi­neer Mpumelelo Mamba and busi­ness­man Sandile Dlamini. To­gether, they ini­tially faced 13 counts. Of note, the former GM, who con­fessed and was made an ac­com­plice wit­ness, con­victed and served his sen­tence for the crime whereas Nsi­bande was ac­quit­ted this past week. While Nsi­bande bat­tled to clear his name for seven years and five months, his po­si­tion was be­ing held on an act­ing ba­sis by sub­or­di­nates such as Judge Nkonyane.

He was the only judge re­main­ing on the sus­pen­sion list af­ter oth­ers such as Judge Thomas Ma­suku, who was sus­pended af­ter him in June 2011 was fired in Septem­ber, the same year.

Nsi­bande was to later be joined by t hen Chief J us­tice Michael Ro­mod­ibedi in the ju­di­cial wilder­ness as well as Judge Mpen­dulo Sime­lane who were all sus­pended in 2015 and fired or im­peached one af­ter the other. With his case drag­ging on for years, Nsi­bande over the years had me­dia men­tions for be­ing paid mil­lions of Emalan­geni while sit­ting at home. Of note, his salary was last cal­cu­lated to have been at over E3mil­lion over the last seven years whereas he has not done a day’s work since his sus­pen­sion with pay a few weeks af­ter his ar­rest.

Nsi­bande’s cur­ricu­lum vi­tae main­tained his po­si­tion at the In­dus­trial Court as noted on his LinkedIn ac­count which de­tailed his du­ties.

The Supreme Court bench com­pris­ing Chief Jus­tice ( CJ) Bheki Mapha­lala, Jus­tices Ben­jamin Odoki, Phesheya Dlamini and Stan­ley Mapha­lala found Nsi­bande not guilty of hav­ing par­tic­i­pated in the E11 mil­lion fraud and cor­rup­tion as no ev­i­dence linked him to the charges.

The land­mark rul­ing was de­liv­ered in­stantly with rea­sons to fol­low in due course. Nsi­bande had filed an ap­peal against a High Court judg­ment dis­miss­ing his ap­pli­ca­tion to be ac­quit­ted and dis­charged as per Sec­tion 174(4) of the Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure and Ev­i­dence Act.

Sec­tion 174(4) pro­vides that: ‘If at the close of the case for the pros­e­cu­tion, the court con­sid­ers that there is no ev­i­dence that the ac­cused com­mit­ted the of­fence charged or any other of­fence of which he might be con­victed thereon, it may ac­quit and dis­charge him.’

The Supreme Court, on this premise, set aside the de­ci­sion of the High Court where it re­fused Nsi­bande’s ap­pli­ca­tion to be ac­quit­ted and dis­charged as per Sec­tion 174(4).

“The ap­pli­ca­tion of ac­cused num­ber four (Si­fiso Nsi­bande) in terms of Sec­tion 174(4) is granted and he is ac­cord­ingly found not guilty and ac­quit­ted in all the charges,” ruled the Supreme Court. Nsi­bande was rep­re­sented by se­nior lawyer Ben J Sime­lane while the Crown was rep­re­sented by South African Ad­vo­cate Nor­man Kardes.

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