Friday, August 25, 2006

Long walk to prison

By Tarryn Le Chat

Former ANC chief whip, Tony Yengeni, was carried shoulder-high by ANC leaders and hundreds of ululating supporters on a short walk to jail at Pollsmoor Prison yesterday.

Yengeni denounced his incarceration for fraud as ‘a travesty of justice’.

He contends that in the democracy he fought for, jail sentences should be reserved for violent criminals.

According to the Cape Times, his application for leave to appeal for his four-year sentence has been refused, leaving him to serve time behind bars for fraud for failing to declare a discount on a Mercedes-Benz SUV arranged for him, while he was head of parliament’s defence committee, by one of the bidders for a multimillion-rand arms contract.

Flanked by Premier Ebrahim Rasool and other ANC heavyweights, his wife Lumka, adult daughter Nandi, son Mandla, and aged parents, the ANC’s former chief whip spoke to the spirited crowd from the back of a bakkie outside the prison in Tokai.

The provincial leadership of the ANC publicly pledged their solidarity, saying Yengeni had been a leader in the struggle, had ‘done no crime’ and would not lose his position on the ANC national executive committee.

According to the report, Yengeni blamed the media for making him sound like a thief who ‘broke into parliament and into the safe’ – a statement that was greeted with loud cheers and whistles.

However, the DA used the very institution to accuse the ruling party of supporting criminals rather than their victims.

DA chief whip Douglas Gibson said it was a disgrace that senior ANC members, including Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool, had accompanied Yengeni to Pollsmoor prison.

“This ‘hero’s parade’ sets an appalling example to ANC members and to the rest of the country, and flies in the face of President Thabo Mbeki’s stance on corruption”, says Gibson.

Naledi Pandor, Minister of Education, was quick to respond to Gibson saying, “The DA and its leadership had not fought against apartheid, nor had they been prepared ‘to lay down their lives or liberty in the interest of the oppressed of South Africa’.”

In fighting spirit, Yengeni said he would walk into prison, serve his term and not ask favours of anyone. “Those who think prison will break me are in for a rude surprise. I will come out stronger”, said Yengeni.

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