/ 26 May 2008

Fidentia victim pleads for help at Cape High Court

A tearful victim of the Fidentia collapse on Monday pleaded with a Cape High Court judge for assistance for her crippled son — and received some, thanks to a generous lawyer.

The emotional outburst came during what was expected to be a routine postponement of the bid for final sequestration of former Fidentia boss J Arthur Brown and his fugitive wife Susan.

Patience Mawu, a mother from Plumstead in Cape Town, had gone to the court intending to make her presence felt at Brown’s bid to overturn the warrant for his latest arrest.

However that application, which was to be heard in court 19, was postponed to Wednesday.

Mawu, carrying a letter addressed to ”the court prosecutor”, instead ended up in court seven, where deputy judge president Jeanette Traverso was dealing with the sequestration.

By agreement between the parties, Traverso extended the date for objections to final sequestration to July 24.

But before she did that, she gave Mawu a chance to address her directly.

Wiping tears from her eyes, Mawu pleaded for assistance for her 21-year-old son Leroy Zuze, a grade 12 pupil who has spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair.

Leroy’s late father put aside money in a fund to care for his son, but had the misfortune to choose the Living Hands Trust, which was allegedly milked by Fidentia.

According to Mawu, she last received payments in early 2007.

Co-curator Dines Gihwala told Traverso there were 47 000 cases like Mawu, and though she would get some money in time, the curators were inundated with problems like hers.

He said though the trust for her son was reportedly set up with R83 000, this amount had shrunk to R53 000 because Fidentia had been using the capital to pay dividends.

Mawu told Traverso her son had done very well for himself as a disabled child. She said he had a matric dance coming up in August, and she could not afford the clothes.

”I wish I could help you, but I’m sitting here and I’m absolutely helpless,” said Traverso.

At that point Gihwala’s counsel, Brian Pincus, told Traverso that Gihwala would personally give Mawu ”something to get on with”.

After the hearing, Gihwala told Mawu she could pick up a suit and shoes for her son at his office on Tuesday.

Mawu told the South African Press Association she was ”deeply, deeply” angy with Brown, and that he ought to rot in jail.

”I’m suffering with this child. At the moment I can’t meet his needs at school,” she said.

”At the end of the day he robbed our children [in] broad daylight: he’s a thief.”

Brown, who has not yet been convicted of any crime, and his wife were provisionally sequestrated in December. The final sequestration hearing was expected to have been heard on April 17, but it was postponed to Monday to allow the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to rule on Brown’s bid to overturn the provisional sequestration.

The SCA turned Brown down. The latest postponement is in part because Brown wants to approach the Constitutional Court.

Brown, who was out on bail in two separate fraud and theft cases, was rearrested on May 9, and has been in custody since then.

His wife has fled to Australia. – Sapa