Africa-Press – Eswatini. Former minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Gideon Dlamini has finally heaved a sigh of relief after the High Court absolved him of corruption and fraud charges.

He said he was content with the outcome of the matter, whose judgment was delivered by High Court Judge Mumcy Dlamini alongside Judge Zonke Magagula and Judge Justice Mavuso. Dlamini, the former minister had corruption and fraud charges hanging over his head for about eight years after he was charged by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) back in 2016 while he was still a minister. He was charged together with Fred Ngeri and Sindile Ngeri, who were second and third respondents in the matter, respectively.

On the count of corruption, the ACC had alleged that Dlamini abused his powers as the minister of commerce, industry and trade by accrediting the second respondent, who at the time was his personal advisor without the authority of government. This is said to have caused the second respondent to have access to government funds through the then Swaziland Investment Promotion Authority (SIPA).

The second charge was fraud-related in that Dlamini had allegedly facilitated a joint venture between an entity called Small Enterprises Development Company (SEDCO) and a company called Ngeri Group Holdings for purposes of establishing a Swazi Traders Link, which was a platform for online sales and purchases. The fraud charges pointed to a cash ‘actual and or potential’ loss of E18 000, while the subsequent fraud charge pointed to E36 000, E5 000 and about E1.6 million.

In this matter, Chief Justice (CJ), Bheki Maphalala, had opined that certain sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act 2006 were unconstitutional. Therefore, he dismissed the application that had been filed by the ACC to have the former minister of commerce industry and trade arrested, together with Nigerian businessman Ngeri and his wife Sindile, for alleged corruption-related offences.

However, the ACC lodged an appeal on October 31, 2016, but the applicant eventually prepared a record of proceedings in respect of an appeal filed by the applicant in September 28, 2018.

The reason for the dismissal of the application was because the provisions of the Act were found to be unconstitutional. Judge Mumcy Dlamini stated that the CJ pointed out that the issue before him was not whether certain sections of the Act were unconstitutional but whether there was prima facie evidence, which the ACC failed to establish. For that reason, the CJ dismissed the application.

Additionally, Judge Mumcy stated that it was erroneous of the ACC as the applicant in the matter to lodge an appeal on a matter engaged through the MoU, which she said was detailed in terms that procure services were not followed. Judge Mumcy said it was clear that the court lacked the necessary competency to deal with the merits of the matter by reason that the applicant based its appeal on a ground which was not appealable at law. Therefore, the matter against Dlamini and his co-accused was dismissed with no order as to costs.

Reacting to this, the former minister said he was happy about this outcome, more so because the case had been haunting him for all these years. He maintained that he was innocent in the matter as he had never engaged in any corrupt and fraudulent dealings in his life. Shortly after the ACC started investigating Dlamini in 2016, the then late Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini announced that then Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs Jabulani ‘Buy Cash’ Mabuza was the new minister of commerce, industry and trade. This meant a demotion for Dlamini, who held that position at the time to being an ordinary Member of Parliament (MP) for Mkhiweni Constituency.

Although the prime minister did not give reasons why Dlamini had been relieved of his duties, speculation was rife that he was fired following the investigations by ACC.

When asked if he felt the charges preferred against him cost him his position as minister back then, Dlamini affirmed and added that not only did the corruption and fraud allegations cost him politically, but also economically and socially. In this regard, Dlamini said with such accusations, people tended to view one in a bad light, which in his case was a pity because he never committed the said offences. Despite his satisfaction about his absolution, Dlamini said he was concerned about the court dismissing the matter with no order as to costs, as this meant he had to settle his own legal fees. Also, he noted with concern the fact that he had been made a first respondent in the matter, wherein the constitutionality of Act that was used to charge him was being discussed, and not the charges that were preferred against him.

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