Corruption-accused court official Eric Nzimande in the dock
If convicted of corruption, suspended KwaZulu-Natal regional court president Eric Nzimande could face life imprisonment.
This is according to the indictment served on him when he made a brief appearance in the Durban regional court on Thursday.
He will next appear in court in May, in the Durban high court.
Thursday’s proceedings, before a magistrate brought in from another province, were brief.
While the usually busy courtroom was not closed to the public, other cases were transferred to other courts, with Nzimande’s being the only one on the roll. Apart from court officials and two representatives of the media, the court was empty as he sat in the dock.
He faces five counts of corruption under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act which provides for a possible sentence of life imprisonment upon conviction in a high court.
In the summary of substantial facts, it is alleged Nzimande, as regional court president, was responsible for making recommendations to the justice minister for appointments as acting regional court magistrates.
This gave Nzimande “considerable power and influence” over the selection of magistrates.
The indictment alleges Thinake Lendwelwa Gumede, Fikile Gladys Luvuno, Zwelokonke Welcome Ngwenya, Yugen Naidoo and Kisoon Ramasir were among those appointed.
Nzimande allegedly sought and received gratifications from them either before, during or shortly after their appointments.
Gumede allegedly made cash payments amounting to R140,000 into his personal account during her prolonged period as an acting regional court magistrate.
Luvuno, who received a permanent appointment, resigned.
But Nzimande soon recommended her for an acting position in Vryheid.
Luvuno allegedly paid Nzimande R10,300.
Ngwenya allegedly paid him R30,000, Naidoo, just more than R11,000 and Ramasir R33,500.
The alleged payments were all made between 2012 and 2015.
Gumede is named as one of the witnesses who will give evidence.
Others include officials from the Magistrate's Commission, deputy justice minister John Jeffrey, former chief magistrate in Durban, Edmond Ngubane, and senior magistrate Sharon Marks, who took over the regional court president’s role for a while after Nzimane’s suspension.
Also on the witness list are employees of FNB and Standard Bank who, it is expected, will testify about the status of Nzimande’s accounts.
The case was transferred to the high court where Nzimande will appear on May 20 2024.
He was summonsed to appear in court on Thursday and is on warning. Nzimande has been paid more than R6m since he was suspended five years ago.
Early next year, he will also face a disciplinary hearing, set up by the magistrate’s commission, to answer to 162 charges.
It is set to be presided over by retired Supreme Court of Appeal judge Jeremiah Shongwe.
Among the charges he is expected to face at the disciplinary are that he victimised and sexually harassed a female acting magistrate, making advances to her, indicating she owed him for giving her the job.
It is alleged he sent her a cellphone picture of his genitals.
He is also accused of receiving payments from attorneys whom he then recommended for acting magistrate’s posts.
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