Publication: The Natal Witness Issued: Date: 2006-08-22 Reporter: Sapa Reporter:

Yengeni Goes to Prison



The Natal Witness

Date 2006-08-22



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Tony Yengeni photographed in Pietermaritzburg last month when he attended the opening of Jacob Zuma’s corruption trial.
Photo: Mark Wing

Yengeni  : ‘Immensely disappointed’
ANC  : ‘Outcome is deeply saddening and regrettable’
DA : 'He must ‘stop his kicking and screaming and respect verdict’
De Lille : ‘Yengeni did the crime, now he must do the time’

Former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni is to begin serving time in prison for fraud this week after his final bid to challenge his 2003 sentence failed yesterday.

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein dismissed his application for leave to appeal against the four-year prison sentence.

In a letter to the legal teams in the matter, the court registrar wrote: “The court ordered on 21 August 2006 that the application be refused.” No reasons were given for the ruling. Yengeni’s attorney, Marius du Toit, told Sapa: “It goes without saying that he’s immensely disappointed. We all are. That’s all I’m prepared to say.”

Du Toit said Yengeni had to report to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town within 72 hours of the ruling to start serving his sentence.

Du Toit said Yengeni would be eligible for early release after serving eight months of his sentence.

The African National Congress (ANC) described the decision to refuse Yengeni’s appeal as sad and regrettable.

“Given the contribution that Tony Yengeni has made towards the achievement of a united and democratic South Africa, and appreciating the sacrifices he has made over the years of his involvement in the struggle, this outcome is deeply saddening and regrettable,” the party said in a statement. “The ANC extends a message of solidarity and compassion to Tony Yengeni and to his family at this difficult moment, and trust that they will have the courage and support to confront the challenges that lie ahead.”

Democratic Alliance (DA) Chief Whip Douglas Gibson urged Yengeni to now “stop his kicking and screaming and respect the verdict handed down to him”.

“While the Democratic Alliance will take no pleasure from the downfall of Mr Yengeni, it is important for the public to realise that even significant figures in the ANC are not above the law *1,” Gibson said.

Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille, a long-standing critic of the arms deal, said Yengeni’s going to jail was “a good first sign that the others responsible for arms deal corruption may very well join him *1”.

“Yengeni did the crime, now he must do the time,” she said. “I wish Mr Yengeni all the best for his time in jail and sincerely hope that he comes out fully rehabilitated.”

Yengeni filed papers in June this year to appeal against his sentence.

The application asked for leave to appeal directly to the SCA against his fraud sentence, and for condonation for the late filing of the application.

The Pretoria High Court turned down Yengeni’s earlier application for leave to appeal to the SCA on April 26.

His bail of R10 000 was increased to R30 000 and extended by two Pretoria High Court judges in May.

The extension was made pending the serving of a petition on the president of the SCA for leave to appeal against his sentence and any subsequent appeal if his petition was successful.

The Pretoria Regional Court sentenced Yengeni in March 2003 to four years’ imprisonment for defrauding Parliament over a discount he received on a 4x4 Mercedes-Benz from a bidder in the country’s multi-billion rand arms deal. Yengeni was the chairman of the parliamentary joint standing committee on defence at the time.

His appeal against the regional court’s sentence ­ to the Pretoria High Court ­ was dismissed in November last year. The high court rejected his claim that he had been promised a lesser sentence under a plea bargain entered into with the state. High court judges Eberhardt Bertelsmann and Ferdi Preller also found that Yengeni had abused his position of trust as a Member of Parliament and should have been given a more severe sentence.

With acknowledgements to Sapa and The Natal Witness.

*1       Next stop - Makouvlei.