Former regional magistrate Ronnie Rambau (left), ex-prosecutor Estene Willemse (middle) and attorney Tivoneleni Edmond Lubisi (right) were all found guilty on charges relating to corruption and being in a corrupt relationship with each other for the period 1 January 2008 to 5 February 2010.
Date: 08 July 2018 By: Andries van Zyl
In what can only be described as a marathon court case, the State finally walked away with a conviction against three high-ranking lawmen of Musina last week.
For the past eight years, the State has pulled out all the stops to secure a guilty conviction against former senior regional magistrate Tshirufho Ronnie Rambau (58), regional court prosecutor Estene Anver Willemse (42) and attorney Tivoneleni Edmond Lubisi (38).
According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), members of the police’s Counter-Intelligence Unit in Pretoria applied for and were granted authority in terms of section 252A of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 for the setting of a trap to investigate the suspicion of corrupt activities at the Musina Regional Court. This was based on information received from informers.
The authorisation was granted, and it was arranged that a deep-cover agent be arrested on a charge of possession of suspected stolen property. After the arrest of the deep-cover agent, a second agent approached Lubisi to act as the deep-cover agent’s attorney. The deep-cover agent was released on bail shortly hereafter.
During the days that followed, several conversations and meetings were held between Lubisi and the two agents. They were informed that the matter could be placed before a specific magistrate (which turned out to be Rambau) and that a pre-arranged sentence could be imposed in court, against payment of a certain amount of money to all the role players.
The NPA stated that, in total, R27 000 was paid over by the agents to Lubisi. The deep-cover agent again appeared in the Regional Court at Musina on 5 February 2010 and was convicted and sentenced to the pre-arranged sentence. Lubisi was the attorney on record, Willemse was the prosecutor and Rambau was the Regional Court magistrate. Following the court appearance of the deep-cover agent, the three accused were arrested. A sum of R8 900 of marked money was found in possession of Lubisi, R100 of marked money was found in possession of Willemse and R5 000 of marked money was found in possession of Rambau.
Following their arrest, Rambau, Lubisi and Willemse were charged with the contravention of various sections of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004. The charges related to the corruption that took place on 5 February 2010. In addition, each was charged with being in a corrupt relationship for the period between 1 January 2008 and 5 February 2010. Lubisi faced four charges of corruption, Willemse three charges and Rambau two charges. The respective charges alleged that the accused’s corrupt activities were aimed at Rambau’s passing pre-arranged sentences.
Cat and mouse
Since their arrest, Rambau and his co-accused tried every trick in the book to have the case against them get thrown out. They brought several applications to this end, which saw the case dragging on for years. First the three brought an application to have the criminal cases against them dismissed in October 2012 as they claimed that the State’s evidence and witnesses were lacking in credibility.
When this application was dismissed, Rambau himself brought an application that the presiding officer in the case, Magistrate E K Patterson, should withdraw from the case as “he had befriended some of the state witnesses” and that this friendship could influence the outcome of the case negatively for Rambau. This application was also dismissed and Rambau then turned to both the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeals, who also dismissed his application to have the magistrate withdraw from the case. Rambau then appealed to the Constitutional Court, which also dismissed this same application.
With all his options exhausted, Rambau was forced to return to the Messina Regional Court to stand trial. He then argued that the case against him was nothing more than bogus charges brought against him by agents within the South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority who had plotted against him.
On Thursday, 28 June, Regional Court Magistrate Patterson convicted Lubisi of all four counts (three counts relating to the events of 5 February 2010 and one count relating to his being in a corrupt relationship with his co-accused for the period 1 January 2008 to 5 February 2010). Willemse was convicted of the two charges that related to the events of 5 February 2010 and on the alternative count to the period charge, namely that he had conspired with his co-accused to commit corruption in contravention of Section 21(b) of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004. Rambau was convicted on two counts (one relating to the events of 5 February 2010 and one relating to the period charge).
Postponement of sentencing
Following their conviction, the court postponed sentencing to 23 to 25 October this year while awaiting pre-sentence reports. All three’s bail was extended until that time.
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.