Sizani's wife in bid to get magistrate to recuse himself
Portia "Pankie" Sizani‚ wife of South Africa’s ambassador to Germany‚ Stone Sizani‚ on Thursday resorted to the Grahamstown High Court in a bid to review a magistrate's decision not to recuse himself from her fraud and money laundering trial.
Her counsel‚ Advocate Johan Wessels‚ argued there was much to substantiate Sizani’s subjective perception that the magistrate presiding in her R1.2-million fraud trial‚ Mputumi Mpofu‚ was biased against her.
He said it was largely because of the way in which Mpofu always ruled against her during her trial that she had developed her perception of bias. Wessels said Mpofu had not been open to argument or persuasion even when direct evidence of undisputable fact had been placed before him.
The 49-year-old former Early Childhood Development (ECD) district coordinator stands accused of defrauding the provincial education department by creating “ghost” teachers and pocketing their salaries between 2009 and 2010.
Mpofu has already found Sizani not guilty on five of the 15 counts of money laundering against her. But‚ she still faces over a dozen counts of fraud and money laundering.
Advocate Albert Beyleveld SC‚ for Mpofu‚ said whether the magistrate’s decisions could be considered good‚ bad or indifferent‚ it could not be argued that he had not applied his mind to argument.
“This was not the attitude of a magistrate who is prejudicing the accused because he is biased.”
Sizani’s trial in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court‚ was in September postponed to mid-February next year pending the outcome of the review application argued on Thursday.
Judges Jeremy Pickering and Gerald Bloem reserved judgment.