Former ANC Northern Cape chair's appeal against 15-year sentence for corruption dismissed

Political leaders should set an example and not misuse public office to corruptly obtain personal wealth, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled on Tuesday.

The SCA said this when it opposed an appeal by former ANC Northern Cape chairperson John Block and former businessman Christo Scholtz who were sentenced to 15 year jail terms each in December 2016 on money laundering and corruption charges.

Block and Scholtz were tried and convicted in the Northern Cape Division of the High Court.

"In these circumstances it was necessary for an unequivocal message to be sent out that corruption on the part of politicians holding high office would not be tolerated," the SCA ruled.

Block and Scholtz had appealed against their convictions and the sentence imposed on both of them.

The charges arose from a number of lease agreements concluded during May 2006 to August 2008 by two various state entities and departments in the Northern Cape with members of what became known as the Trifecta Group of Companies.

Scholtz, a businessman from Pretoria who was engaged in the private equity business, came into contact with Sarel Breda with whom he identified business prospects in the Northern Cape.

Their business model was to identify rundown buildings which could be renovated into offices and then leased to state entities.

This was done and in due course a number of leases were concluded which went to the heart of the charges that were brought.

The trial court held that Block, who was a senior politician in the province, had corruptly used his influence to ensure that Breda and his companies obtained certain of these leases.

These were concluded with the state without the necessary statutory protocols and procedures being followed.

Block was paid substantial gratifications, including two payments of R228 000 and R500 000.

Block, who resigned as party chairperson and finance MEC shortly after he was found guilty in October 2015, had appealed against this finding.

"The SCA exhaustively analysed the evidence relating to these particular counts and held that the two amounts of R228 000 and R500 000 were corrupt gratifications which fell within the ambit of the charge of corruption set out in the indictment – which related solely to the conclusion of contracts of lease for two buildings, the Kimberlite Hotel and the NCTC Building," said the SCA.

It was argued on behalf of Block that he could not be convicted of corruption as he had received these sums after the contracts had been concluded. The SCA rejected this.

Regarding the sentence, the SCA went on to hold that there were no substantial and compelling circumstances which justified a lesser sentence than the 15 years imprisonment which was prescribed by the legislature for this offence.

The SCA found, in Scholtz's case as well, that there were no special and compelling circumstances which justified the imposition of a sentence less than the prescribed minimum of 15 years imprisonment in respect of the corruption that fell within the indictment.