Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

Premium Journalist

Lawyer disgraced as Zondo has the last laugh

Lindelwa Mbanjwa drafted a forged R2.5 million property sale agreement and affidavit to cover up corruption.

When lawyer Lindelwa Mbanjwa excitedly lauded her client for dodging questions at the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, it probably never occurred to her that she would be fingered together with her client for fraud and corruption in the report on looting at SA Airways (SAA).

In February 2020, moments after commission chairperson deputy justice Raymond Zondo adjourned a hearing for a tea break, she erupted into applause, seemingly celebrating the four-day performance of her evasive client, former SAA Technical (SAAT) procurement head, Nontsasa Memela.

Mbanjwa, who also represented former SAA board member Yakhe Kwinana at the commission, is among the people and companies that the first part of the state capture report has recommended that National Prosecuting Authority should consider prosecuting for fraud or corruption.

In the firing line

Zondo also recommended that the Legal Practice Council investigate her conduct further to determine whether they deserve to remain on the roll of attorneys for drafting a fraudulent sale agreement to cover-up kickbacks paid to Memela.

Businessman Vuyisile Ndzeku, former director of JM Aviation, which scored a contract with SAAT, told the commission that he had bought a piece of land in the Eastern Cape from Memela’s mother for R2.5 million.

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But the entire sale agreement was a forgery, with these funds conveniently channelled to purchase Memela’s house in Bedfordview, Johannesburg.

Mbanjwa, who became Memela’s lawyer around that time, drafted the sale agreement and affidavit, which Ndzeku admitted were a forgery.

Evidence shows that Memela received a payment of R2.5 million from JM Aviation to facilitate the JM Aviation/AAR components tender and the sale of GPUs – vehicles capable of supplying power to aircraft parked on a runway or airfield.

Fraud, conspiracy and cover-up

The commission found that Mbanjwa and her clients, Memela and Kwinana, conspired to hide their corrupt activities by fabricating agreements after the commission started looking into their corrupt activities.

“This type of conduct calls for prosecution,” the state capture report stressed.

The report notes that, as an officer of the court, Mbanjwa would no doubt be aware of the seriousness of an allegation of fraud made against her.

Despite this, she did not give her version to the Zondo commission and so Ndzeku’s acceptance that the sale agreement was a fraud and was only signed in 2019 remained uncontested.

False sense of confidence

When evidence of their fraud was revealed during Ndzeku’s testimony, Zondo wrote to Mbanjwa and invited her to provide an affidavit to the commission setting out her version of the fraud in which she had been implicated.

But Mbanjwa declined to provide any affidavit, saying she was satisfied that she was not implicated in any wrongdoing in Ndzeku’s evidence.

“This stance was staggering given what had been disclosed in Mr Ndzeku’s evidence. On Ndzeku’s own evidence, Mbanjwa had drafted a sale agreement for the land he said he had purchased from Memela’s mother, which he eventually conceded had been a fraud,” the report notes.