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Hawks pounce on ‘ghost’ electricity vending ring

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Staff Reporter

Seven suspects aged between 28 and 67 were arrested at the crack of dawn following a year-long investigation into a sophisticated pre-paid electricity vending racket in the Free State and Gauteng.

The suspects were arrested at different premises in Gauteng by a multidisciplinary team that included the Hawks on Wednesday.

A statement released by the Hawks said the criminal network was responsible for large-scale pre-paid electricity fraud and theft.

“This . . . investigation ensued in May 2020 in Bloemfontein . . . probing the illicit sale of electricity facilitated by illegal vendors who have in their possession illegal electricity vending machines,” said the Hawks.

This practice is called ghost vending as it involves the illegal sale and purchase of electricity.

“The syndicates reportedly operate in groups nationally and generate income of approximately R150 000 to R250 000 per day from illicit sales of electricity,” said the priority crime investigating unit.

“They are highly organised, well-equipped, closely networked and are difficult to track due to the fact that these machines do not transact on a network or at a single place, but are constantly roving.”

The suspects were allegedly responsible for selling illegal electricity to pre-paid customers.

“The illegal practice of selling prepaid electricity results in multi-million-rand losses to Eskom per annum,” the Hawks explained.

“This loss of revenue and the increase in non-technical losses contributes significantly to the electricity woes of the country.

“These arrests come at a time when the country has been plunged into load shedding due to the bleak power situation.”

During their arrest, one of the suspects allegedly enticed the arresting officers with a R100 000 gratification and was additionally charged with corruption.

The other suspects were allegedly found in possession of illegal firearms as well as ammunition and were also slapped with additional charges.

Several cellphones, laptops, SIM cards, seven luxury vehicles, pre-paid electricity vouchers, transaction records and cash amounting to R714 800 were seized for further investigation.

The national head of the Hawks, Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya, warned those involved in similar activities that they will soon have nowhere to hide.

“This work is continuing and the team shall not rest until all the members of this organised criminal group are accounted for,” he said.

“Once more, I call upon the community not to buy electricity from illegitimate vendors . . .”

Eskom group chief executive André de Ruyter described the investigation as groundbreaking and highly commendable.

He said the ghost vending machines are a huge liability to the power utility as they enrich the criminals with very little to no effort.

“This will help restore confidence in Eskom as we continue to fight the scourge of crime that plagues the institution and the country,” said De Ruyter.

“This is economic sabotage of the highest degree and the perpetrators of such crimes must be brought to book and dealt with to the full might of the law . . .”

All the suspects are expected to appear in the Fochville Magistrates Court in Gauteng on Friday.

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Two Free State women allegedly killed by ‘druggie’ sons

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SHOCKING MURDER . . . A 65-year-old woman was allegedly stabbed with a sharp object by her 28-year-old son after she failed to give him money to buy drugs

Two women from Mangaung have allegedly been attacked and killed in two separate incidents by their own sons believed to be using drugs.

In the latest incident which happened in Kagisanong along Masike Street at the weekend, a 65-year-old woman was allegedly stabbed with a sharp object by her 28-year-old son after she failed to give him money to buy drugs.

Police spokesperson for Mangaung Metro Lieutenant Colonel Thabo Covane said in the woman died on the scene from the stab wounds.

“The victim had visible multiple stab wounds on the head and body,” he said, adding the matter was reported by the brother to the deceased, who was also attacked by the suspect who is now in police custody.

Covane said the complainant informed the police that the suspect is believed to be using drugs and had asked his now deceased mother for money to buy drugs but she told him that she didn’t have money.

“The suspect got angry, went out of the house, came back with a piece of iron and stabbed the deceased with it several times,” he explained.

“When he was done, he turned to the complainant and also stabbed him on the chest.”

Covane said the uncle survived the attack but the daring suspect locked them inside the house and had to wait until Friday morning to get help.

The suspect was later traced and arrested by the police.
He is expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court this Monday facing charges of murder and attempted murder.

In a similar case, a 42-year-old man will be applying for bail at the Botshabelo Magistrates Court on the same day after allegedly strangling to death his 71-year-old mother last Sunday, August 7, 2022 in the E-Section, Botshabelo.

The suspect is also said to history of substance abuse.

Free State acting provincial police commissioner, Major General Modise, condemned the killing of the two elderly women. – Staff Reporter

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Magashule loses ConCourt bid to reverse ANC suspension

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APPLICATION DISMISSED . . . The Constitutional Court says Ace Magashule has no prospects of successfully appealing his suspension as ANC secretary-general

Former Free State premier Ace Magashule has lost his latest court bid to have his suspension as ANC secretary-general lifted.

He had approached the Constitutional Court seeking to have his temporary ousting from Luthuli House reversed.

In a judgment handed down on Wednesday, the apex court said Magashule had no prospects of successfully appealing his suspension.

“The Constitutional Court has considered the application for condonation and the application for leave to appeal. It has concluded that, although there are no reasonable prospects of success on the merits of the application for leave to appeal, the delay in bringing the application for leave to appeal is minimal,” the court said.

Magashule first approached the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to challenge his suspension, but the matter was dismissed with costs.

He subsequently approached the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), which dismissed the application in January 2022, prompting him to take up his case with the Constitutional Court.

Magashule was suspended from the ANC in May 2021 because of the party’s step-aside rule.

The rule requires ANC members facing criminal charges to step aside while their court cases are under way.

Magashule is facing corruption charges linked to the Free State asbestos corruption scandal. – Staff Reporter

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Municipal manager facing tender fraud charges granted bail

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THE ACCUSED . . . Maluti-a-Phofung municipal manager Futhuli Patrick Mothamaha is out on bail

Maluti-a-Phofung municipal manager Futhuli Patrick Mothamaha, 49, was on Friday released on a bail of R500 000 by the Phuthaditjhaba Magistrates Court after he was arrested by The Hawks for fraud, corruption and Contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act.

The state alleges that he allegedly awarded a contract of R58 million to Kill Crime Security Company in 2020 without following proper procurement processes.

National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping said Mothamaha allegedly signed a service level agreement on May 19, 2020, appointing the company to render security services to the municipality for a period of three months without following procurement processes.

“The municipality continued to pay Kill Crime Security Company for almost two years without a contract,” said Shuping.

He said Mothamaha was supposed to appear with his co-accused, father and daughter who are the owners of Kill Crime Security, Thabiso, 55, and Dimakatso Sekhosana, 29, on Monday after they were instructed by The Hawks to hand themselves over on Sunday, but he failed to do so.

The Sekhosanas appeared on Monday facing similar charges and were released on bail of R150 000 each.

Part of Mothamaha’s bail conditions are that he must not enter the offices of the municipality, not interfere with the investigations nor intimidate witnesses.

The case was postponed to September 30 for further investigations. – Staff Reporter

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