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People are being asked to falsely testify against me: Magashule



Staff Reporter

Former Free State premier Ace Magashule says some people have been approached to come forward and make false claims against him in the asbestos corruption case which is set to go on trial soon.

He made the claim on Tuesday while addressing journalists outside the Free State High Court after the pre-trial conference was postponed to November 3.

“People are being asked to come and make false claims about me when the trial starts,” said Magashule without stating who the people are.

He would also not indicate if these people had been approached by the state to give the false testimonies or it was just private individuals.

“They have told me everything and we know who is behind this. I will expose them at the right time.

“I can’t wait to stand in the dock and state my case. These are just trumped-up charges.

“I have worked in government for about 25 years and I have not been involved in any corruption. I have not stolen even a penny.

“Why would I steal when I am about to leave government?” asked a frustrated Magashule, who is also suspended as the ANC secretary-general.

His legal team pressed the state during the sitting to furnish it with the list of witnesses so that they can adequately prepare themselves for trial.

There has been speculation whether Magashule’s former personal assistant Moroadi Cholota, who is now living in the United States, had agreed to turn state witness against him.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said the state preferred not to discuss witnesses in the media.

“The NPA will not be saying who is our witness and who is not to the media. When the right comes, that information will be made public,” said Mhaga.

Magashule appeared together with 10 other accused persons in the matter and they are charged together with five companies.

The main charges they face include fraud, corruption and money laundering.

The state outlines its case in the final indictment saying: “When an organ of state in the national, provincial or local sphere of government . . . contracts for goods or services, it must do so with a system which is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.”

It says in terms of treasury of regulations, supply chain management, when procuring through a bidding process, should provide for: the adjudication of bids through a bid adjudication committee; the establishment, composition and function of bid specification, evaluation and adjudication committees; the selection of bid adjudication committee members; bidding procedures; and the approval of bid evaluation and or adjudication committee recommendations.

The prosecution argues that treasury regulations indicate that state organs are not obliged to consider an unsolicited proposal but may only consider such a proposal if, among others, a comprehensive and relevant project feasibility study has established a clear business case; the product or service involves an innovative design; the product or service involves an innovative approach to project development and management; or the product or service presents a new and cost-effective method of service delivery.

But according to the state, the Free State Department of Human Settlements, represented by Nthimotse Mokhesi, 61, who is the first accused in the matter, appointed Edwin Sodi, 47, his company Blackhead Consulting (Pty) Ltd and joint venture partner Diamond Hill (Pty) Ltd as a professional resource team for the eradication of asbestos in the Free State province.

Sodi and the two companies are now accused one, two and three in the matter. 

These were appointed on October 1, 2014 when a service level agreement was entered into.

The contract price amounted to R255 million and the department made an “advance payment” to the value of R51 million.

Diamond Hill was owned by the late Ignatius Mpambani who was murdered in 2017.

Accused three, four and five then subcontracted the work to Sello Joseph Radebe, 56, and his company Mastertrade 232 (Pty) Ltd at a cost of about R44.2 million.  

Radebe and the company are standing as accused seven and eight in the matter.

Accused seven and eight further subcontracted the work to Abel Kgotso Manyeki, 38, and his company Ori Group (Pty) Ltd at a cost of nearly R21.4 million.

Manyeki is accusednine while his company is the 10th accused.

The state alleges that Magashule, former human settlements MEC Olly Mlamleli, 63, and the government officials who have who have since been charged had a legal duty to comply with the stipulations in the Public Finance Managament Act (PFMA) as well as the treasury regulations.

The state further alleges that Magashule and the officials also had a legal duty to disclose the deviations from and/or non-compliance with departmental prescripts, stipulations in the PFMA and the treasury regulations.  

It also expected them to disclose the personal and/or business relationship between themselves and Sodi, Mpambani and/or companies which they were involved in or owned.

And as if to hold Magashule to his word, the state claims that on June 26, 2014, he delivered the State of the Province Address in his capacity as Free State premier in which he mentioned that the eradication of asbestos roofing project in the Free State would take place from 2014 to 2019.

The state has listed over 70 charges against the accused, of which Magashule faces three, namely fraud, corruption and failure to report corruption.

There are several counts attached to each charge.

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Ngwathe pays Eskom to fix damaged line



BLACKOUT . . . The Ngwathe electrical network tripped on Friday and damaged Eskom’s equipment due to overloading

Ngwathe Local Municipality in the northern Free State has paid R1.1-million to Eskom so it can repair damages to the power line in the area caused by overloading.

Eskom provincial spokesperson Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg said in a statement the payment was made on Monday morning and work to restore supplies to Parys and Vredefort has started.

“Repairs to the Eskom equipment will now commence,” said Van Rensburg.

“Based on the assessments of the damage, supply to Ngwathe should be restored by midnight tonight,” she added.

The spokesperson however said the initial repairs were focusing on the hot connections and will only be temporary to assist communities.

Another outage will be scheduled to repair the transformer bushings that were also damaged during the overloading incident.

The Ngwathe electrical network tripped on Friday and damaged Eskom’s equipment due to overloading.

“Since 2018, Eskom has warned Ngwathe that their continued exceedance of their Notified Maximum Demand (NMD) – the contracted amount of electricity supplied by Eskom to the Municipality – will eventually result in damage to the Eskom network and that the municipality needs to apply for an upgrade in their NMD.

“In August 2021 and in April 2022, Eskom informed the municipality that any damage to the Eskom network that is caused by the municipality’s negligence, will be at the municipality’s cost.

“The municipality agreed to this condition and, although they were well informed and aware of the risks, they did not take the necessary precautions or made sufficient efforts to upgrade their NMD,” Van Rensburg explained.

Following the incident, Eskom insisted on the municipality making an upfront payment as it is one of the municipalities in the province sitting with a huge debt to the national power utility.

As at end June, Ngwathe’s overdue debt to Eskom totalled R1.89 billion.

Eskom says this debt continues to grow as current accounts are not paid in full.

“Ngwathe’s non-adherence to payment conditions and negligence in protecting the power system, jeopardises Eskom’s financial sustainability as well as the security of supply to the residents of towns such as Parys and Vredefort.

“Supply to Ngwathe will be restored to the capacity as per the contracted NMD.

“Risks of overloading and consequent damage remain, and it is imperative that the municipality invests in upgrading its supply,” according to the power company. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung electricity tariffs up



POWER TARIFFS UP . . . Local power distributor Centlec has hiked electricity charges

Electricity tariffs in Mangaung have gone up by 7.47 percent.

In a statement released on Thursday night, local power distributor Centlec said the increase was due to come into effect at midnight on July 1 following approval by the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa.

The increase will cover the period July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.

“A guideline increase of 7.47 percent on electricity tariffs for Centlec was therefore approved with effect from the 1st of July 2022 for the 2022/23 financial year,” read part of the brief statement.

It said a more detailed outline of the increases will be announced soon. – Staff Reporter

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CUT students arrested for protesting against exams



DISTURBANCE AT CAMPUS . . . Five students protesting against exams at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein have been arrested

Police have arrested five students from the Central University of Technology (CUT) for public violence after they embarked on an unsanctioned protest against the institution’s decision to have the mid-year exams conducted in person at its two campuses in Bloemfontein and Welkom starting this Thursday.

The exams are set to run until July 20.

The fracas follows an announcement by CUT acting vice-chancellor and principal Professor Alfred Ngowi on Wednesday in which he stated the exams would take place physically at the two campuses as scheduled.

Ngowi said a detailed discussion about online exams at the Welkom campus concluded that it would not be feasible to conduct online exams because circumstances have changed regarding the COVID-19 restrictions and that it was also against the policy of the university.

“CUT is a full-contact institution and not a distance learning institution and therefore does not have the authority to accredit examinations that are not done under CUT’s status as a full-contact institution,” said Ngowin in a recorded video.

Ngowi told the students that academic assessment is one of the important building blocks of their qualifications.

He warned the students against disrupting the exams saying they would face disciplinary action as such action will be illegal.

“The unreliability of the power supply may have unintended disruptive effects,” he said.

“The COVID-19 restrictions which necessitated virtual classes and virtual assessments have all been suspended and the various accrediting bodies to which CUT is affiliated may not accredit online assessments.

“Therefore, we will proceed with physical assessments.

“Management has made all necessary preparations for the smooth running of the mid-year assessments, which have been communicated to all students.

“Therefore, any student who plans to disrupt the physical examinations on our campuses must be aware of the legal and disciplinary consequences.

“In addition, the CUT management has put several measures in place to protect the constitutional rights of all our students who are prepared for and prefer to sit for physical assessments.

“Students must be aware that any disruptions of the planned and scheduled assessments are illegal and unlawful, and students who act outside the law will have to face the consequences of their actions.

“Students further need to note that failing the upcoming academic assessments will directly impact their NSFAS funding status.

“No further funding will be available to NSFAS-funded students who fail the assessments or fail to take the upcoming assessments.”

But, in a statement, members of the South African Student Congress (SASCO) at the university argued that since all assessments had taken place online due to the COVID-19 restrictions, “it is only normal that the exams take place online as well”.

SASCO also argued that some students had not received their allowances from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and it would therefore be impossible for them to write their exams in a physical setting.

But Ngowi addressed the matter earlier in the same video: “As previously communicated through the Student Representative Council, NSFAS-funded students who still have unresolved challenges with their accommodation are encouraged to make written submissions to the relevant faculty deans in that regard.”

Park Road police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thabo Covane said members of Public Order Police Unit arrested five male students for public violence at the CUT’s Bloemfontein campus on Thursday morning.

He said the group of protesting students was warned by the operational commander to disperse within a given time as they were contravening the conditions stipulated in an issued court order but refused to do so.

“The protesting students became violent and started throwing stones and bottles at the police and the security officers,” said Covane.

“The police used stun grenades to disperse the crowd. The other group ran into King Edward Street and blocked traffic by placing stones on the road.

“Police then arrested the five students with ages ranging from 18 to 22 years.”

The arrested students are expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Monday facing charges of public violence and contravening a court order. – Staff Reporter

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