Episcopal Church of Ethiopia Bishop Mzukisi Banzana’s appeal challenging his conviction and sentence for corruption has been dismissed and he will serve 12 years in prison.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) regional spokesperson Anelisa Ngcakani said on Friday a notice was issued to Banzana to hand himself to prison authorities and commence his sentence.
Banzana was sentenced to 12 years behind bars in 2017 following his conviction in the Port Elizabeth high court.
Ngcakani said Banzana had been the manager of the Mzingisi Development Trust, founded by the late ANC veteran Govan Mbeki, which built RDP houses in Port Elizabeth. The trust built RDP houses in impoverished areas, including Soweto on Sea, Veeplaas, Westview and Bethelsdorp.
“He received kickbacks in the form of cash amounts and four guaranteed cheques from a construction firm to which he allegedly awarded housing construction tenders. He used the cheques to purchase three vehicles and settled his bond account of R1.4m,” Ngcakani said.
Banzana traded a BMW 7 Series for another and a VW Polo for a BMW 1 Series, thereby committing money laundering.
“The construction firms maintained the cheques were a loan, which Banzana denied during a civil lawsuit against him,” she said.
Ngcakani said Banzana indicated he accepted the cash and cheques as unsolicited gifts (tokens of appreciation) and denied they were kickbacks or gratifications to secure the continued award of the tender.
The NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) seized R2.9m worth of luxury goods from Banzana on May 8 2013.
“The AFU raided his Port Elizabeth home after a preservation order issued by the high court which effectively froze Banzana’s assets,” Ngcakani said.
Among the assets taken were a BMW 7 Series, a VW Polo and a Nissan Pathfinder, and the title deed of his home was endorsed.
A final order to forfeit the assets to the state was granted on November 12 2013. In January 2016, R1.6m was deposited into the criminal assets recovery account to bolster law enforcement anti-crime efforts.
Banzana’s application for leave to appeal the forfeiture of his assets was dismissed with costs in February 2014. The curator then sold the assets.
Ngcakani said the high court in Makhanda held that Banzana could not deny the evidence of the state witnesses.
“He admitted having received personal benefit from the monies received, and there could no other way to describe the conduct of Banzana other than gratification in terms of the Corruption Act.”
By MPUMZI ZUZILE – TimesLIVE