A Nelson Mandela Bay Ward Councillor from the ANC, Bongo Nombiba, was found guilty of fraud and money laundering in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court on Friday.
Nombiba was arrested by the Hawks in 2016 for swindling the district of R20 000, which was implied for the Thulamangwane Community Project, a non-government association which tends to the elderly and cleans schools in the group.
He was charged with fraud, two counts of corruption and money laundering.
Magistrate Johannes Claassen found Nombiba guilty of fraud and money laundering, but not guilty of corruption, saying Nombiba had taken the money as reward for the fraud he had committed, and not to secure favours for the NGO.
Nombiba was found guilty of facilitating a donation from the Ward 20 municipal discretionary fund for the Thulamangwane Community Project in 2014, wherein he had inflated their request for funds from R10 000 to R30 000.
On November 4, 2014, an amount of R30 000 was paid into Thulamangwane’s Standard Bank account.
He had then convinced senior members of the project, including deputy chairperson Mandisa Monco, secretary Zukiswa Mbhem and treasurer Maneli Damba, who has since passed, that the R20 000 was his.
He then had them accompany him to the bank and withdraw the excess funds in two instalments of R13 000 and R7 000 respectively, a portion of which he had then deposited in his own ABSA account.
Claassen said he had found the testimony of the State’s witnesses in the case to be reliable and consistent, whereas Nombiba had been an unreliable and evasive witness, to the point that he had to be warned that his evasiveness could count against him in judgment.
Following judgment, an application for a preservation order against Nombiba’s car was submitted.
Claassen then granted Nombiba, who had until then only been out on warning, bail of R1 000. The matter has been postponed to April 26 for sentencing.
Nombiba’s guilt may not impact vote of no confidence
While Nombiba has been found guilty, all indications are that he will still retain his position as ward councillor until sentencing. This is critical in terms of the vote-of-no-confidence against mayor Athol Trollip scheduled for April 6, where every vote counts.
Read: Is Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Athol Trollip on his way out?
City Manager Johann Mettler said council rules and regulations made a provision that looked at sentencing, not judgment.
“If he is sentenced to 12 months imprisonment without the option of a fine, he will automatically become ineligible to be a councillor,” he said.
Mettler said the matter could also be referred to the Rules and Ethics committee if the Code of Conduct had been transgressed.
Nelson Mandela Bay council Speaker, Jonathan Lawack, who could refer the matter to the ethics committee for investigation, said they would wait for sentencing.
“We will have to wait for sentencing, after which the matter will be escalated to the MEC Cogta for (his) removal,” he said.
Had Nombiba been removed from council, as a ward councillor, his seat would have remained vacant until a by-election took place to determine his replacement.