Skeletons came tumbling out of the closet after it emerged that while Port Elizabeth police spent nearly two years on the hunt for the theft-accused wife of a prominent Port Elizabeth businessman, she spent half that time in Mthatha acting as a magistrate.
Justice spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga confirmed on Tuesday that Pumla Silinga, 46, of Walmer, was appointed to the Mthatha Magistrate’s Court bench in an acting position last year.
He said her contract was due to come to an end next month.
But it has also emerged that Silinga’s membership with the Cape Law Society was suspended seven years ago.
Questions have now been raised as to how Silinga, the former director of Silinga Attorneys in Port Elizabeth, landed a magistrate’s position while facing criminal charges for the theft of a client’s trust money.
On Tuesday, the mother of three, and wife of Coega Development Corporation (CDC) chief executive Pepi Silinga, pleaded guilty to a charge of contempt of court.
She was sentenced to a fine of R2 000 or 30 days’ imprisonment.
ilinga went on the run after she was released on warning for allegedly stealing R95 000 meant for the transfer and registration of a Zwide property.
She was rearrested on Monday when she appeared in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court on a separate charge of theft – details of which are not before court.
Yesterday, her lawyer Kuban Chetty told the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court that Silinga did not have a valid reason for absconding from court.
He said she had opted to plead guilty to the contempt charge because she was remorseful for her actions.
State advocate Bongo Mvinjelwa, meanwhile, said the fact that Silinga was a legal professional who had stayed away from court made it an aggravating factor.
“She should have known better,” he told magistrate Johannes Claassen.
Silinga was remanded in custody until today, when she will have an opportunity to apply for bail.
While her husband, Pepi, declined to comment yesterday, Coega’s head of marketing and communications Dr Ayanda Vilakazi said: “The CDC has taken note of the legal proceedings against Pumla Silinga to the extent that an inference has been made to the CDC’s chief executive.
“However, this matter is personal and private and has no bearing whatsoever to the CDC or [Pepi].”
Vilakazi said Pepi was not implicated in any wrongdoing and the association was “regrettable and unfortunate”.
Silinga was arrested in November 2013 alongside 46-year-old estate agent Lungelwa Simango of Kwazakhele.
It is alleged Silinga drew cheques from the trust account, even paying Simango an amount of R20 000.
Her membership of the Cape Law Society was suspended in May 2009 and Silinga stopped practising.
A warrant was issued for her arrest when she failed to appear in court in March 2014.
Mhaga said if a lawyer was appointed to the bench, then just one of the requirements was a letter of good standing from the Cape Law Society.
“We are still trying to verify the information that was placed before the Mthatha chief magistrate before he forwarded his recommendations to the minister,” Mhaga said.