Jailed Mhlathuze Water boss Mthokozisi Duze takes fight for bail to Durban High Court

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Durban — The incarcerated Chief Executive Officer of the Richards Bay-based Mhlathuze Water entity, Mthokozisi Duze, is now taking his fight for freedom to the Durban High Court.

Duze’s legal team has already notified the court of its intention to appeal the ruling of the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court that refused him bail early this month and freed all his five co-accused in the high profile corruption case.

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So far, only the notice to appeal is a public document in the court register, while the rest of the file is not yet a public document.

However, IOL understands that the State is yet to file its own replying papers responding to Duze’s arguments and the date for hearing the appeal is not yet allocated by the court.

His legal team from Garlicke & Bousfield Inc in Durban did not comment when asked about the appeal which should be filed within 14 working days after the initial ruling.

Duze was arrested together with the Director-General (DG) of the provincial government of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Nonhlanhla Mkhize, lawyer Sithembelo Ralph Mhlanga, debt collector Siphiwe Mabaso and suspended Mhlathuze Water’s chief financial officer (CFO), Babongile Mnyandu, among others.

They are accused of corruption in awarding tenders for legal services at Mhlathuze Water where Mhlanga’s law firm allegedly raked in millions and later paid kickbacks to the likes of Duze and others.

The lower court released the rest of the suspects, but Duze was denied bail on the basis that he had a long history of intimidating witnesses who stood up against him.

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In one incident, Duze was called to a disciplinary hearing by Mhlathuze Water. The hearing could not proceed after those presiding over it and those expected to testify claimed that they feared for their lives.

He allegedly came to the offices of the water entity escorted by men armed with high calibre rifles like AK 47s and that was viewed as intimidation.

Meanwhile, this arrest has opened a can of worms regarding the business dealings of Mhlanga’s law firm.

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IOL has been tipped off that the DA-run Umgeni (Howick) local municipality in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands has launched a probe regarding Mhlanga’s invoices he submitted after doing legal work while the municipality was still under the ANC.

The municipality is of the view that Mhlanga charged the municipality excessively high fees (higher than what other law firms charge) and it is suspected that the money was later used to pay bribes to some municipal officials.

IOL has seen some of the invoices Mhlanga’s law firm submitted to the municipality and which were then promptly settled using a bank account held at FNB.

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When Mhlanga was asked about the matter, he said their fees were high compared to. He added that black lawyers deserve to be paid like their white peers.

«White or black peers? Ask yourself that and Bhuti carry on with your story. I will not glorify it. Just so you know: black lawyers deserve to be paid properly for the quality work they produce just like their white peers,» Mhlanga responded.

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