The bail application will now proceed with a new magistrate after Magistrate Nontuthuzelo Sontlaba recused herself.

The case against 15 people charged with fraud and corruption at the University of Fort Hare (UFH) has been postponed to next week.

The suspects returned to the Dimbaza Magistrate’s Court on Thursday to find out whether the cases against them would be struck off the roll.

Magistrate dismisses defence application

The defence made an application on Wednesday, arguing the court had no jurisdiction to hear the matter in the first place.

They stated that all the warrants of arrest were defective as the documents stated that the accused needed to appear in the East London Magistrate’s Court instead of Dimbaza.

Magistrate Nontuthuzelo Sontlaba has since ruled in favour of the state and rejected the defence’s request to thrown the case out of court.

“The court has dismissed the defence teams’ request to have the matter struck off the court’s roll. The court agreed with the prosecution’s submissions that it has jurisdiction to hear the case, so we are vindicated.

“Our next move is to oppose their bail application,” National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Eastern Cape spokesperson Luxulo Tyali told The Citizen on Thursday.

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Tyali also confirmed that Sontlaba will recuse herself from the case, with a new magistrate expected to take over the matter going forward.

The defence had sought the magistrate’s recusal from presiding over their clients’ bail application, claiming that she could be biased as she already presided over the murder case linked to Fort Hare University.

The bail hearing has been set for 11 and 12 April.

University of Fort Hare suspects apply for bail

The police arrested 15 people over the Easter weekend and are facing a string of charges ranging from fraud to corruption to racketeering.

The suspects – Isaac Plaatjies, Anna Smith, Paul Tladi, Lucrecia Davids, Mbulelo Gingcana, Loius Mawila, Nozuko Mabombo, Gosain van der Haar, Thamsanqa Sonjica, Terrence Joubert, Bradley Conradie, Sarah Burger, Craig Retief, Anwar Khan, and Nthabiseng Makhoba – were apprehended by a special team investigating alleged criminal activities at the university, which resulted in staff being killed and targeted for assassination.

Only Burger and Van Haar are out on R50 000 bail with several conditions after the state did not oppose their release.

READ MORE: Retired employee must pay R2m back to University of Fort Hare for tenders awarded to her son

Meanwhile, Plaatjies abandoned his bail application after it had been previously rejected.

He has been in custody ever since his arrest in November 2023.

All the individuals have been accused of defrauding the tertiary institution to the tune of R171 million.

The charge sheet reportedly places Plaatjies at the centre of the alleged corrupt network within the university.

The UFH director of investigations and vetting services, along with other officials, allegedly received cash in kickbacks through security contracts.


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