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Thabiso Goba
3 minute read
17 Apr 2021
06:08

Mooi River prosecutor faces jail for taking bribe

Thabiso Goba

A prosecutor who took a bribe of R1 000 to make a case disappear and then R10 000 which was part of a mediation agreement, now faces jail time.

A prosecutor who took a bribe of R1 000 to make a case disappear and then R10 000 which was part of a mediation agreement, now faces jail time.

Zanele Molefe (39), who worked at the Mooi River Magistrate’s Court, was yesterday found guilty of corruption, theft and defeating the ends of justice.

In a fairly empty courtroom with only four people in the public gallery, Camperdown magistrate, Matheus Taljaard, brought an end to a trial that started in 2018.

According to the evidence, it all started on May 16, 2015, just before midnight when Philani Hlela drove his car into a Mooi River convenience centre and subsequently damaged the glass doors. The owner of the store, Donovan Carter, opened a case of malicious damage to property against Hlela. Carter estimated the damage to be about R12 000.

Settlement reached
 Hlela agreed to pay Carter R10 000 for the damages and said he would need a week to gather the money. The money was supposed to be paid through the courts.

Shortly after the case was opened, said Taljaard, Molefe, who was prosecuting the case, approached Hlela and asked him for R1 000 to make the case go away. Hlela testified that he paid Molefe the R1 000, which he later admitted to have been the wrong thing to have done, said Taljaard.

During an alternative dispute resolution conference at Molefe’s office, she told Carter that her boss, the senior prosecutor, did not have enough evidence to go forward with the case.

Carter called in Hlela to the office and asked him if he denied the allegations against him, which Hlela didn’t. Hlela agreed to pay Carter R10 000 for the damages and said he would need a week to gather the money. The money was supposed to be paid through the courts.

Three weeks later, said Taljaard, Carter ran into Hlela at his fuel service station and asked him how long he was supposed to wait for the money.

Anti-corruption unit
Court documents reveal that two years later, Hlela and Carter were approached by an anti-corruption unit in Pretoria to make statements about their experience with Molefe.

Shocked, Hlela told Carter he had already paid the money two weeks ago.

In his judgment, Taljaard said Molefe had contacted Hlela and told him to give her the money and she would transfer it to Carter. It turns out that Molefe and Hlela met on a street just outside court where he handed her a plastic bag full of cash which she stuffed into her purse, said Taljaard.

When Carter went to confront Molefe at her office, Molefe started crying, saying she had “borrowed” the money to treat her sickly mother, Taljaard said. Molefe then offered to pay Carter back his money in four monthly instalments of R2 500, which she did. Court documents reveal that two years later, Hlela and Carter were approached by an anti-corruption unit in Pretoria to make statements about their experience with Molefe.

“The only reason I have stuck it out so long is because of the dedication of policewomen in Johannesburg and the prosecutor, Sharleen Lupke, who made us believe that justice in this country is possible.”
Donovan Carter, store owner

Hlela turned state witness.

Taljaard said Hlela and Carter were reliable and truthful witnesses. He had strong words for Molefe, calling her an unreliable witness who repeatedly contradicted her evidence and misled her attorney.

Speaking after the judgment, Carter said he was “elated” the case has come to an end.

“The only reason I have stuck it out so long is because of the dedication of policewomen in Johannesburg and the prosecutor, Sharleen Lupke, who made us believe that justice in this country is possible,” he said.

Molefe was remanded in custody until sentencing which will take place next week.