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28 Sep 2009 15:38
The last of the members of Parliament charged with abusing parliamentary travel warrants, former African National Congress (ANC) chief whip Nyami Booi, on Monday pleaded guilty to theft.
Booi was fined R50 000, or five years’ jail, and given until January 2014 to pay the money in monthly instalments of R1 000.
He was given an additional one-year jail term, conditionally suspended for five years.
The plea and sentence were in terms of an agreement with prosecutors finalised shortly before his appearance in the Cape Town Regional Court.
In the agreement Booi (49) admitted that although the travel warrants he received from Parliament were meant only for flights, he also used them for R92 000 worth of car rental and hotel accommodation worth R20 000.
The agreement recorded, however, that he had made “full restitution” to Parliament, and that he had shown remorse.
“The publicity the case received in the media, has taken its toll of him,” according to the document.
Booi, who chairs the National Assembly’s defence committee, was accompanied in court by his brother Fatty Booi, national organiser for the Umkhonto weSizwe Veterans’ Association.
After magistrate Michelle Adams confirmed the sentence and left the court, Booi walked over to prosecutor Jannie van Vuuren and gave him an unexpected hug.
The MP was the last of about 30 parliamentarians implicated in the so-called Travelgate affair to be convicted.
All the others entered into plea agreements, but Booi, who made his first court appearance in February 2005, had appeared determined to take on the State in a full trial.
He said after Monday’s brief hearing that he felt “fine” now that it was all over.
“I can’t say much,” he said.
“I would have loved to engage, but the point is, when there’s an option in law that I could make use of, I make use of that option.”
Asked why he decided to enter into an agreement after fighting the case for so long, he said: “I just decided that it’s going to go on for long, it’s not going to be helpful.
“I’ve got [quite] a few other responsibilities to take up.”
He wanted to be able to concentrate on his job as an MP “and really not run around”.
Four travel agency bosses, including Soraya Beukes, whose agency served Booi, are still facing Travelgate charges.
Their case is set down to be heard in the Cape High Court in February next year.—Sapa
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