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Magashule to appear in court for the asbestos case



Staff Reporter

At least 11 people, including ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, are expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court today for the continuation of the Free State asbestos corruption case after three more suspects were arrested yesterday.

The three, who are yet to be named, have been described as government officials believed to have played a significant role in the R255-million audit corruption case.

The case started towards the end of September last year with the arrests of Johannesburg businessman and owner of Blackhead Consulting (Pty), Pheagane Edwin Sodi, 47; head at the Free State Department of Human Settlements (FSDHS), Nthimotse Mokhesi, 61; director for supply chain management at the FSDHS, Mahlomola John Matlakala, 42; Fourways businessman, Sello Joseph Radebe, 56; Pretoria businessman, Abel Kgotso Manyeki, 38; former director-general at the National Department of Human Settlements, Thabane Wiseman Zulu, 53; and former Free State MEC for Human Settlements and former mayor of Mangaung, Sarah Matawana Mlamleli, 63.

They are jointly charged with five companies, namely Blackhead Consulting, Diamond Hill Trading 71 (Pty) Ltd, 605 Consulting Solutions (Pty) Ltd, Mastertrade 232 (Pty) Ltd and Ori Group (Pty) Ltd.

The initial seven suspects were arrested by the police priority crime unit, the Hawks, across the three of provinces the Free State, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Magashule, 62, who is the former premier of the Free State, was charged later in November and made his initial court appearance after handing himself over to the police.

The initial eight suspects were all released on bail ranging from R50 000 to R500 000 after making their first appearances in court.

They face charges of fraud, theft, attempted theft, corruption in contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004, money laundering in contravention of Section 4 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998 as well as the contravention of various Asbestos Regulations, promulgated in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993.

Magashule is facing a total of 21 charges.

It is alleged that various payments were made by the Free State Department of Housing to Diamond Hill Trading 71 and Blackhead Consulting, a joint venture of which the late Phikolomzi Mpambani and Sodi were the account holders.

The company was appointed by Mokhesi as a service provider on a contract of R255-million.

The joint venture was expected to assess and remove asbestos roofs and/or housing as they pose a health hazard to people but, according to the state, the work was never completed.

The state alleges that in August 2015, Magashule corruptly accepted gratification of R53 550, paid on his request towards the tuition fees of the daughter of a then acting judge from Mpambani.

It is further alleged that in June 2015, Magashule accepted payment of R470 000, paid on his request to M-TAG Systems for the acquisition of 200 Electronic tablets from Mpambani.

Furthermore, it is alleged that in June 2015, Magashule accepted a payment of R30 000, paid on his request to SWC Nkate from Mpambani.

Between November 2015 and January 2016, a payment of R250 000, on his request, was made by Mpambani to Astra Travel towards the travel expenses of an ANC delegation to Cuba.

It is further alleged that Magashule failed to report corrupt transactions in contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004.


Parts of Free State may not have power for up to three weeks



PROLONGED BLACKOUT LOOMS . . . Eskom says consumers in some parts of the Free State may not have electricity for up to three weeks

Eskom has warned consumers in the south-eastern Free State that they may not have electricity for up to three weeks due to voltage constraints on the network feeding the Melkspruit Substation.

The power failure resulted in electricity users in Zastron, Rouxville and Smithfield as well as those fed directly by Eskom on the RVZ and RVS 22 kV lines experiencing outages over the past weekend.

Eskom’s spokesperson in the Free State, Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg, said the problem may persist until major work on a line from the Northern Cape is completed.

“The voltage constraint on the network will persist until construction of structures on the Ruigtevallei-Valleydora 132 kV line in the Northern Cape is completed,” said Van Rensburg as she urged consumers to remain patient while the supply challenge is addressed.

“Free State teams are currently assisting to speed up the process. It is however expected that work will take two to three weeks to complete.”

“In the meantime, electricity users are urged to use electricity sparingly, especially during the morning and evening peak hours, to prevent trips,” she added.

South Africa has been experiencing rolling blackouts in recent weeks due to what Eskom has described a “continued shortage of generation capacity”.

On Sunday, the national power utility said in a separate statement it had about 3 028 megawatts on planned maintenance, while another 14 992 megawatts of capacity were unavailable due to breakdowns.

While the loadshedding is meant to ease pressure on the national grid and avoid a total collapse of the system, the practice has reportedly caused damage on some lines when power is switched back on.

Eskom has always said loadshedding is implemented only as a last resort to protect the national grid and promised to limit the implementation of loadshedding to the evening peak in order to limit the impact of the capacity shortages on the public. – Staff Reporter

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Minister shuts down troubled Free State water supplier



MOVE GAZETTED . . . Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has disestablished Sedibeng Water

Staff and key assets from the embattled Sedibeng Water Board are set to be transferred to the Bloemwater and Magalies water boards following the gazetting of the move by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu last week.

The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said in a statement the development is in line with the minister’s commitment to review the country’s water boards to enable them to perform optimally while enhancing the delivery of water to municipalities and ultimately to households.

The decision to disestablish Sedibeng Water – which served Matjhabeng, Masilonyana and Nala local municipalities, among others – means its staff, assets and liabilities will be absorbed by Bloemwater in the Free State and Magalies in Gauteng.

The move, according to Ratau, was initiated by the minister following his working sessions with provincial governments, various water services authorities and water boards regarding issues of governance, financial viability as well as accountability and broader service delivery issues after taking office in August last year.

“The review is based on considerations of financial sustainability, servicing areas that are not currently serviced and is also intended to address institutional confusion caused by having multiple water boards serving the same area,” said Ratau.

“The disestablishment of Sedibeng Water is in accordance with section 28 of the Water Services Act of 1997 which affords Minister Mchunu the authority to disestablish a water board.

“The gazette was published on Friday, 20 May 2022 and will remain open to the public for a period of 40 days.

“Members of the public and all interested parties are invited to make comments in writing on the disestablishment of the board.”

The department said it will ensure there is smooth transition of the disestablishment and that water service provision to communities is not affected.

Based in Bothaville, Sedibeng Water was established to, among others, treat wastewater and supply potable water in a viabile and sustainable manner.

However, in recent years, some of the municipalities served by the water board have struggled over the years to pay on time for the bulk water supplies even though residents have argued that they pay their monthly bills on time.

At the end of March this year, Sedibeng reportedly owed its service providers over R5-billion as it was struggling to secure payment from several municipalities. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung warns residents to brace for heavy rainfall



DISRUPTIVE DOWNPOUR LOOMING . . . Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned heavy rainfall is expected to pound the capital

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned residents in and around the Free State capital to brace for heavy rainfall that could cause flooding this Friday.

The municipality is urging drivers to take extra caution by reducing speed and switching their headlights on, while pedestrians are being reminded to be careful when crossing the road and to avoid crossing rivers and streams where water is above the ankles.

“Residents of Mangaung Metro, particularly in the former Naledi region, are urged to be cautious on the road and in their homes as the South African Weather Service has issued an impact-based warning . . . for possible disruptive rainfall,” the metro said in a statement.

“This warning is valid for Friday, 20 May 2022 until Saturday, 21 May 2022.”

“Heavy rains are also predicted in Bloemfontein on Friday,” it added.

“Localised flooding can be expected in susceptible low-lying areas, roads, formal/informal settlements and bridges.” – Staff Reporter

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