07/12/2016 10:26 GMT | Updated 07/12/2016 11:25 GMT

Despite A Guilty Verdict And A 15-Year Sentence, The ANC In The Northern Cape Still Believes John Block Is Innocent

The ruling party in the Northern Cape has vowed to back the embattled former provincial leader in his appeal action.

Emile Hendriks/Gallo Images

The African National Congress in the Northern Cape has vowed to rally behind its former chairperson John Block who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for corruption. Block is appealing the decision.

Provincial secretary Zamani Saul said the organisation would stick by his side until he cleared his name.

"We are going to support him to appeal the sentence. We believe in his innocence and it is his right to appeal the decision," said Saul.

Block, along with former businessperson Christo Scholtz, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for money laundering and corruption. An order of confiscation was also made with R2 million worth of Block's assets expected to be taken while Scholtz received one for R53 million.

Block and Scholtz were accused of leasing Trifecta office space in Kimberly, Upington and Springbok to the Northern Cape social development department at inflated prices.

Scholtz was the director of Trifecta Holdings, the company awarded the tenders to lease. Block resigned as party chairperson and finance MEC of the Northern Cape shortly after he was found guilty of fraud and money laundering in October last year. His resignation also followed a recommendation by the ANC's integrity commission that he steps aside for bringing the party into disrepute. Saul has indicated that despite these issues, Block was still part of the organisation.

"He is still an active member of the ANC," said Saul.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the mother body would wait for the court process to conclude before making a pronouncement on Block's future with the organisation.

"He is currently appealing and we are waiting for the outcome of the appeal. We will wait to hear from the court," said Kodwa.

The sentence was welcomed by the majority of opposition parties, with the Congress of the People (Cope) saying that it should serve as a warning to other politicians not to believe they possess the power to stay out of jail.

"Block, like many others, believed that he was too high up in the ANC echelons go to jail. He believed that anyone who was close to Mr Zuma was untouchable. We further welcome the court's decision to confiscate assets of R60 million belonging to Trifecta and to fine them R1.27 million, and that Block must pay R2 million back to the state. This is a very clear and strong message that crime does not pay, especially to all those in positions of power, and that are still busy with corrupt activities, the law will deal with them very harshly. Nobody is above the law," Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem.

Bloem added that Block was not the only politician in a position of power who has been receiving kickbacks in the form of shares, cash and renovations to his property in exchange for arranging to lease property at inflated prices.