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MBABANE – It was raining money at the Mbabane Magistrates Court yesterday.

The woman, who presented herself as one of His Majesty the King’s daughters and defrauded various people different sums of money in return for jobs and scholarships, has compensated most of her victims the full amounts she swindled them.
Gama promised to facilitate her victim’s employment in the armed forces, King’s Officer, Tibiyo TakaNgwane and scholarships to even overseas institutions.

In total, Bekezeli Gama of Mafutseni under Chief Ngalonkulu paid out a total sum of E132 630 to some of the complainants before Principal Magistrate Fikile Nhlabatsi yesterday.
The repayments were conducted in the principal magistrate’s courtroom. The money was brought to court by Gama’s attorney, Bongani Phakathi, of Masina Mzizi Attorneys.
However, not all the people she defrauded received their money. A sum of E15 000 is still outstanding. The principal magistrate made it clear that Gama, who wants to be released on bail pending her appeal of her 112 years sentence, had to pay the balance before she could be let out of Mawelawela Correctional Services.

When Gama’s victims presented themselves in court, orderlies confirmed that they were all present and the doors to the courtroom were shut, supposedly to confirm if there was enough money for everyone. After a short while, the victims were then ushered into the principal magistrate’s courtroom. Gama arrived in the company of Correctional officers.

According to one of the victims, who declined to reveal his identity, one by one, they were called to approach principal magistrate in front of the court and produce their identity cards, one at a time.
He said there was an official who recorded the sum that was paid to each one of them and confirmed with them if it was the correct amount.

This went on until all the 12 people were compensated the defrauded amounts. Gama faced 38 counts of theft by false pretences and she pleaded guilty to all the charges.
Noteworthy, is that there were people who paid different amounts to Gama on different dates resulting in multiple counts in respect of an individual. Since she has not paid back the whole sum, the matter was postponed to August 31, 2018 when the other victims who missed out on the repayments would be called and compensated.

During her trial and in her application for bail pending appeal, Gama made an undertaking to repay her victims the defrauded monies.
The principal magistrate had wholly suspended the 112 years imprisonment on condition that Gama paid back all the money which amounted to E146 130.
Gama said the condition to suspend the sentences was not legally sound and practicable.

In her application for bail pending appeal, Gama accused her inmates of allegedly stabbing her in the armpit. She claimed to be kept with dangerous inmates at Mawelawela Correctional Services.
“I reiterate that as a result of the number of years in my sentences, I am currently kept behind the walls where they keep dangerous inmates convicted of multiple murders. My safety there is not guaranteed as some of them are violent,” she told the court.
After Gama was arrested and granted bail fixed at E50 000, she told the court she would pay back her victims and requested for more time to organise the funds.
The court released her on her own recognisance pending submission of proof of payment. However, Gama was not seen after her release and she never returned to court.
She was eventually spotted by one the complainants, Betfule Mnisi, near Jet Stores at the Swazi Plaza in Mbabane.

Mnisi notified the police officers providing security at the elections registration centre at the Swazi Plaza, who rearrested Gama and took her to the police station.
When she appeared in court the following day, she was remanded into custody. She was eventually convicted on September 12, 2017 and sentenced on June 5, 2018.
She submitted that the gist of her appeal was that the principal magistrate erred in imposing what she described as grossly harsh sentences which induced a sense of shock that no reasonable court could issue.
Gama, said Principal Magistrate Nhlabatsi should have ordered that the sentences on the 38 counts should run concurrently (consolidated) and not consecutively (one after the other).

She added that the court ought to have taken her mitigating factors in that she pleaded guilty to the charges and that she was a first offender. “I submit therefore that I have prospects of success on my appeal which will see my sentences reduced, with an option to pay an affordable fine. I submit that I am therefore entitled to bail pending hearing of my appeal so that I can regain my freedom,” she told the court.
Gama said she was prepared to provide security in the sum of E146 130 which is equivalent to the amount she was ordered to compensate the people she defrauded.

When she applied for bail before being her conviction, Gama denied that she had any relations with the people she was accused of working with in committing the offences.
She told the court that she was a sickly person and that her continued incarceration would worsen her condition.
She also said there was no prejudice to be suffered by the Crown if she were to be released from custody because she would not endanger members of the public.
Mnisi said they were grateful to the principal magistrate for deciding the matter as she did. He said justice had been properly served in the matter and highlighted that there were many other people who fell victim to the fraud whose cases were not in court.

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