/ 15 January 2007

ANC leaders flock to Yengeni’s release

Former African National Congress chief whip and fraud convict Tony Yengeni was released from the Malmesbury prison on Monday morning. Yengeni was set free having served just more than four months of his original four-year sentence.

Earlier, a group of senior Western Cape ANC leaders arrived at the Malmesbury prison to welcome him back into society.

The group, in a convoy of black luxury vehicles, included ANC provincial secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha and Yengeni’s wife Lumka, who were immediately admitted to the prison grounds.

Yengeni is expected to be released sometime after 9am having served just over four months of his original four-year sentence.

A small group of supporters had also gathered in the parking area outside the prison.

A large media contingent has been camped out there since daybreak.

Yengeni’s release will not be broadcast live on South African Broadcasting Corporation television, as was previously thought, but there will be a broadcast at 1pm.

It was expected he would proceed to his father’s house in Gugulethu, Cape Town, for a traditional cleansing ceremony.

Yengeni was convicted in 2003 of defrauding Parliament by failing to disclose a 47% discount on a luxury 4X4 Mercedes-Benz. He failed to win an appeal against his four-year sentence and was sent to the Pollsmoor prison in August last year.

Since then, his prison life has been marred by controversy, with claims that he has received preferential treatment.

He was reportedly held in a special prison hospital cell and he was allowed a visit home after serving two months of his sentence.

Earlier this month it was reported that he was allowed to hold a private Christmas party where his wife brought him a meal which they shared behind closed doors. Other prisoners had to be content with standard prison fare.

Yengeni is expected to be under correctional supervision until 2008, after which he will be allowed to lead a ”normal life without any restriction”.

On Sunday, Correctional Services Minister Ngconde Balfour visited Yengeni to brief him on his parole conditions.

”As the political head of the department who is the most senior accountable leader of DCS, Minister Ngconde Balfour had to personally read the ‘riot act’ to Mr Yengeni to ensure that he is fully informed of the rules and obligations of placement under correctional supervision,” the department said in a statement.

”The minister has a responsibility to ensure that he takes full responsibility for any actions that have to be taken whilst an offender of Mr Yengeni’s nature is serving correctional supervision.”

The department said Yengeni’s placement under correctional supervision ”places the offender effectively under house arrest within the confines of very strict regulations”.

Balfour was not the only high-profile person to visit Yengeni on Sunday.

He also received a social visit from ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma.

Yengeni reportedly switched his loyalties to Zuma after unsuccessful attempts to clinch a plea bargain. Zuma also faced corruption charges relating to the arms deal, but his case was struck of the roll by Judge Herbert Msimang in September 2006.

Yengeni was present at one of Zuma’s court appearances in Pietermaritzburg. – Sapa