Judge Pres. Nsibande’s star halted by corruption charges
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.