Former Muvhango production manager accused of stealing R3m clears name
Cape Town - It’s image that will stay with her for the rest of her life: her husband shuffling dejectedly into the courtroom, his legs shackled like a hardened criminal.
Eight months pregnant and losing weight rapidly because of all the stress, Shandu Mukwevho learnt the hard way that when days are dark, friends do indeed scatter. Now she and her husband, former Muvhango production manager David Mukwevho, are trying to pick up the pieces after a brush with the law that saw David spending 10 days in jail after being accused of stealing R3 million from Muvhango’s petty cash stash over a three-year period.
He and Shandu endured months of upheaval before his case was finally thrown out in February for lack of evidence.
DRUM meets the couple at their modest home in Kew, Johannesburg, where they are revelling in the time spent with their children, Arehone (2) and Atshilaho (3-months). Although David is relieved to be in the clear after seven court appearances, he still has lots of unanswered questions about what happened and how he was implicated – and he isn’t letting things rest here. “There was no evidence at all against my client,” his lawyer, Chris Mamathuntsha, tells us.
“The state failed to produce evidence to support the charges against him.” David is now planning to sue Word of Mouth, Muvhango’s production company, as well as Muvhango creator Duma kaNdlovu for “unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution and defamation of character”, Mamathuntsha says.
He won’t reveal the amount they’re seeking “but it will be substantial”, he says. “My client suffered emotional trauma and loss of earnings and his name was brought into disrepute by false allegations.”
The trouble started last year when David (35) informed Muvhango’s management he would be leaving after four years, he tells us. He’d been offered a job as production manager by a friend on The River, a new show on DStv’s 1Magic. He informed the managers in September that he would be leaving and a month later he got a call from police asking him to meet them the following day.
Baffled, he showed up the next day at the Johannesburg Commercial Court with his pregnant wife and their little daughter and the cops told him he was under arrest. “My first thought was, ‘It’s a bad joke’. I didn’t know what the captain in charge was talking about. I knew I hadn’t done anything illegal.”
But the police said he had committed fraud to the tune of R3 million. “I was shocked,” David says. “I have never had more than R300 000 in my bank account and I couldn’t believe what I was being told.” He still remembers the look on his wife’s face when police told him he’d have to spend the weekend in jail while he awaited his court appearance on the Monday. His lawyer tried to negotiate with the police to let him go home in the interim, but the cops were having none of it and he was taken to Brixton Police Station immediately. It was very stressful, Shandu says.
“I felt like I was losing my mind. I knew deep down my husband would never do something like that.” She later took toiletries for him to the police station and “when I saw him through the glass, my heart sank – I couldn’t take it”, she says, twisting her wedding ring. On the Monday she went to David’s court appearance.
“When I first saw him in leg shackles I almost collapsed,” she recalls. “I can’t get that image out of my mind.” David was refused bail as police wanted to verify his citizenship, even though he’s Limpopo born and bred. Hearing he was being taken back to the cells gutted Shandu. “That crushed me. I tried to hug him but I was restrained by police.”
She called a Muvhango actor who she considered a close friend and asked him to convince Duma to drop the charges. “His reaction was, ‘Are you sure you didn’t know because uya vha divha uri vhathu vha vhana vhana tshiphiri (men can do things without you knowing)’. After that phone call I realised even people who were close to my husband were turning against him.”
Duma tells DRUM he can’t comment on the case even though the charges against David have been withdrawn. “Legal processes are still under way and I am not able to comment further,” he says. In his affidavit to the court Duma said he suspected David and a colleague of creating “fictional service providers” and paying them from petty cash over three years. “Mukwevho received large sums of money and failed to account for them,” he claimed. “
He has not provided credible receipts and has used some of the monies for personal use. “He then purchased receipt books and fraudulently signed the receipts for each transaction – thereby paying out the company’s money and signing the proof of payment himself. The company does not have detailed accounts of who the monies were paid to nor receipts signed by the service provider.”
While David’s nationality was verified he was taken to the notorious Sun City Prison which, he says, “was no walk in the park” and is one of the reasons why he has decided to sue Duma and the production company. On his first day at the jail he was strip-searched by five prisoners “They pulled my pants down but I had no valuables.
“On my first night I slept on the floor without a blanket. One guy shouted, ‘Hey, there are virgins today!’ I slept with my pants and jacket on. I was scared I was going to be raped. I only took two showers in the 10 nights I spent there – that’s how afraid I was.” He shared a cell with someone who was accused of murder, which “freaked me out”.
“All I could think of was my eight-month pregnant wife and our daughter.”
Shandu, meanwhile, was under such strain the weight was dropping off her and her worried gynaecologist told her she had to take care of herself and her unborn child. David was eventually granted R5 000 bail. He tried to go back to work but “with the dark cloud hanging over me, it was impossible to concentrate” and he ended up losing his new job. A few weeks later Shandu gave birth to a healthy son with David by her side.
“I am so happy I could be there,” he says. On 25 February his case was dismissed. He still remembers “nearly peeing my pants” when he was driving to court that last day because he was so stressed. And when he heard the case had been thrown out the relief was profound. Even though he’s now unemployed he’s grateful to be home again with his family and he hopes to get justice for what he’s been through.
“At least I am now free.”