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Ramaphosa to address nation on COVID-19

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Staff Reporter

President Cyril Ramaphosa will address the nation this evening at 7pm on developments in South Africa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A statement issued by the Presidency says Ramaphosa’s address follows meetings in recent days of the National Coronavirus Command Council, the President’s Coordinating Council and Cabinet.

“As South Africa rolls out its national COVID-19 vaccination programme, government and social partners are continuously monitoring infection, treatment and patient recovery rates, as well as compliance with health regulations and other prevention measures,” reads part of the statement.

As of yesterday, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases identified in the country was 1 659 070, with 4 515 new cases reported between Friday and Saturday.

A total of 56 363 deaths have been reported across South Africa and the recoveries stand at a cumulative total of 1 554 184.

At least 963 876 people have been vaccinated nationally.

The Free State remains one of the most affected provinces with 100 676 cumulative cases.

There have been 88 524 recoveries in the province with 7 831 active cases. About 4 321 people have succumbed to the disease.

The president’s address will be broadcast and streamed on a range of platforms that are accessible to South Africans and international audiences.

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Guptas lose application to have restraint order case postponed

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NO SMILING MATTER . . . An interim restraint order against a company that Atul Gupta, seen in this file photo, co-owns with his brother and their wives remains in force

The Free State High Court on Friday dismissed a last-minute application brought by the directors of the Gupta-owned slandsite Investments 180 (Pty) to postpone the return day of the provisional restraint order against company, Iqbal Sharma and others.

Acting Judge Neil Snellenburg will provide a written judgment for dismissing the postponement application on Monday.

The directors sought a postponement pending their application to the Supreme Court of Appeal where they are appealing against a High Court ruling passed in August 2021 that said the business rescue practitioners of Islandsite, not the directors, have the authority to represent the company in the restraint proceedings.

Investigating Directorate spokesperson Sindisiwe Seboka said in a statement the interim restraint order will remain in force until the next court hearing on 20 and 21 October, when the confirmation hearing is expected to be heard.

The assets under restraint include properties of Iqbal Sharma and his wife, his UAE-registered company, Issar Global, his wife Tarina Patel-Sharma, as well as all property of Islandsite, which is owned by Atul and Rajesh Gupta and their respective wives, Chetali and Arti Gupta.

The interim restraint order was granted in June 2021, in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act (POCA).

Sharma’s assets that form part of the curator’s inventory include his Sandton home valued at over R12-million.

The property was featured on the lifestyle television programme, Top Billing, and is owned by Issar Global.

Other assets include movable property valued at R500 000, a Porsche and a R1.3 million sectional title home in Sandton.

Properties owned by Gupta family company Islandsite that form part of the inventory include a house worth R21-million in Constantia, Cape Town, and a R12-million house in Saxonwold, Johannesburg.

Said Seboka: “The interim restraint order continues to run . . . that means the curator that is looking after the assets remains in place, meaning there is no chance for those assets being disseminated.

“The state is quite comfortable that the assets will not be taken abroad or be given to other people, in terms of the shares.

“They continue to be in safekeeping.

“For us that is pivotal and the court has found enough evidence in that respect.” – Staff Reporter

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Ex-MEC faces probe over failed R1-billion Free State housing project

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NO PROPER LEADERSHIP . . . Former Free State MEC for human settlements Mosebenzi Zwane criticised

The State Capture Commission wants former Free State MEC for human settlements Mosebenzi Zwane investigated for failing to provide “proper provincial leadership” in a failed R1-billion provincial housing project.

The department’s former head, Nthimotse Mokhesi, told the commission, led by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that his office had made an advance payment of more than R500-million to the project’s contractors before any work was done.

Described in the fourth part of the State Capture Commission’s report as a “dismal failure”, the housing project was dogged by several factors including a decision by former Free State premier Ace Magashule to build bigger RDP houses from the initial 40-square-metre units without consulting the provincial human settlements department and the contractors.

The commission found that Zwane, the human settlements MEC at the time, “failed to provide proper provincial leadership” with regard to the R1-billion housing project.

The report criticised Magashule for not monitoring projects and not holding Zwane accountable.

It said instead Magashule made Zwane the MEC for agriculture, “where he continued with his dismal performance”, resulting in the Estina/Vrede Dairy Farm collapse. – Staff Reporter

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Magashule escapes Zondo rap over asbestos project ‘scam’

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ASBESTOS PROJECT CASE . . . Former Free State premier Ace Magashule is facing charges of corruption, fraud, theft and others together with 15 co-accused

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has not made any recommendations in his latest state capture report for a criminal investigation against former Free State premier Ace Magashule for his role in the failed 2014 asbestos eradication project for which he is currently standing trial.

Zondo, in the fourth part of the State Capture Commission’s report, instead recommended that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) consider charges against the head of the Free State human settlements department, Nthimotse Mokhesi; businessman Edwin Sodi; and former director-general of the department of human settlements Thabane Wiseman Zulu for their roles in the asbestos audit and removal debacle.

Magashule is facing charges of corruption, fraud, theft and others together with 15 co-accused who include Mokhesi, Sodi, Zulu and several companies for their part in the asbestos contract worth over R255-million.

The report also urges the government to seek legal opinion on whether it could recover the money paid to Sodi’s company Blackhead Consulting and its joint venture partner Diamond Hill to audit and remove asbestos roofing on identified houses in the Free State.

It also found the Blackhead Consulting/Diamond Hill joint-venture lied to the provincial authorities about its ability to do the job.

The use as well as the manufacture and processing of asbestos was banned in South Africa in March 2008 as it is a serious health hazard to the lungs.

The Free State human settlements department embarked on the project after it approved an unsolicited proposal from from the Blackhead Consulting/Diamond Hill joint-venture.

This, according to the report, was done without following any competitive process.

“The department paid about R255-million to the joint-venture but ultimately no asbestos was removed from the roofs of houses,” the report says.

“It turned out that this joint-venture was not even qualified to undertake the removal of asbestos despite the fact that they had told the department in their proposal and in the service legal agreement that they signed with the provincial department that they had the qualifications, skill, expertise and experience required for the job.”

The report described the project as “a considerable scam from its inception”.

It said it was clear the project “was always intended to unlawfully benefit a certain business consortium”, adding those benefits were also intended for various government officials.

Just as in the matter before the Free State High Court, the report indicates that Sodi paid R650 000 towards the purchase of a property for Mokhesi in Bloemfontein.

“The commission is satisfied that this payment was made as a reward or inducement or both for the asbestos contract,” said the report.

It found Mokhesi as a central figure in the awarding of the contract to the Blackhead Consulting/Diamond Hill joint-venture.

The human settlements MEC at the time, Olly Mlamleli, has not been implicated as the investigation did not look into why she did not realise that there was a problem with the project and intervene timeously in order to save public funds from being wasted.

The report also states that Magashule could have intervened together with Mlamleli.

The report wants Mokhesi investigated for corruption following his decision to contract the Blackhead Consulting/Diamond Hill joint-venture.

It has also recommended an investigation for possible prosecution for breaching provisions of the Public Finance Management Act.

He is already facing similar charges in the on-going case.

The commission also found that Sodi paid R600 000 into the account of a Ballito car dealership in December 2015 with reference “TZ” which said was common cause it stood for Thabane Zulu.

When he appeared at the commission in 2020, Sodi told the commission in 2020 that he owed Zulu for alcohol he had bought at his entertainment venue outside Pietermaritzburg.

When Zulu was asked how Sodi’s alcohol bill reached hundreds of thousands of rands, he told the commission Sodi often hosted parties for “dignitaries” at his KwaZulu-Natal home.

“Instead of taking the money I decided to instruct him to deliver the money where I wanted it,” he said.

The explanations by the two did not convince the commission which concluded the money “may well have been a bribe or reward to Mr Zulu for his role in facilitating the award of the asbestos contract”.

It recommended that criminal charges relating to corruption or any other applicable crime should be pursued against Zulu for the R600 000 that Sodi paid. – Staff Reporter

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