A Nelson Mandela Bay ward councillor from the African National Congress, Bongo Nombiba, has been sentenced to five years’ jail time by the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court on Thursday.
This follows Nombiba, 43, being found guilty of fraud and money laundering in March.
Magistrate Johannes Claassen handed down a seven year sentence, of which three years were suspended, for fraud, and another three years, two of which were to run concurrently with the fraud sentence, for the money laundering count.
This led to an effective five years in jail.
Claassen also ruled that Nombiba was unfit to possess a firearm licence.
Claassen said the offences were very serious. He said in the case of police officers convicted of a similar offence, involving amounts over R10 000, the minimum recommended sentence was a 15 year jail term.
He said it was clear Nombiba had shown no remorse for his actions, and while he had the right to plead not guilty, he had gone further by trying to make out that the witnesses against him were liars.
Following his sentence, Nombiba’s girlfriend, who was in court, broke down in tears.
Nombiba was arrested by the Hawks in 2016 for defrauding the municipality of R20 000, which was meant for the Thulamangwane Community Project, a non-government organisation which cares for the elderly and cleans schools in the community.
Claassen found Nombiba guilty of fraud and money laundering, but not guilty of two counts 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 died, 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.
Nombiba’s sentence means that he will now lose his seat in council. Because he is a ward councillor, his position will have to go to a by-election to determine his replacement. Until the by-election is finalised, the ANC will have one less vote on council.
ANC regional treasurer, Mbulelo Gidane, who had attended proceedings, said the ANC was sorry for what had occurred.
He said a report would be drafted and referred to the region, and the region would take the matter to the ANC’s provincial executive committee, who would then make a decision which will be informed by the sentencing.
Gidane said that before making a final decision, the ANC would wait to see if Nombiba appealed against the court decision, and only after that process was finalised would a final decision be made.
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