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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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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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Six nabbed for alleged theft of network batteries

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NABBED . . .  The six men believed to have stolen network batteries and damaged critical infrastructure

 Six men were due to appear in the Marquard Magistrates Court on Friday after being found in possession of eight network batteries believed to have been stolen.

Police spokesperson for the eastern Free State, Warrant Officer Mmako Mophiring, said the suspects were arrested following a joint effort by members of the SA Police Service, private security and farmers.

He said police received information from the community at about 3am last Wednesday saying some unknown men were digging up network boxes and cutting copper inside a manhole.

“The police activated and mobilised other members and arrested the first suspect who is a foreign national near a filling station while sitting inside a vehicle,” said Mophiring.

The man was arrested for possession of suspected stolen property after eight network power box batteries were found in his possession and failed to properly account for them.

While pursuing the matter with the help of some farmers, the police received information at about 8am that some five men were trying to hitch-hike near a certain farm to Senekal.

“The team quickly responded and arrested the three suspects who were successfully linked to the initially arrested suspect. Two other suspects managed to escape but were chased and arrested near a farm going to Senekal. Four of the six suspects are Illegal immigrants and two are South Africans,” he explained.

The six are aged between 23 and 30 years of age.

They are facing charges of contravening the Immigration Act, possession of suspected stolen property and damage of infrastructure.

Provincial Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Baile Motswenyane applauded the community and the team for the prompt arrests and urged them to “continue working together to fight crime”.

Meanwhile, three suspected armed robbers were sniffed out of their hideout in Thaba Nchu near Serwalo on Thursday morning following a petrol station robbery.

Police spokesperson in Mangaung, Sergeant Mahlomola Kareli, said in a separate statement four armed robbers arrived at the petrol garage just after midnight on Wednesday and threatened the security guard with a firearm before tying him up with wire and fleeing the scene with a undisclosed amount of cash and cans of motor vehicle oil.

The suspects demanded keys from the guard and gained access to the back offices.

And while others were busy helping themselves to the oil cans and cigarettes, others were busy grinding the safe to access the money inside.

The four then left the security guard with his hands and feet tightly fastened with a wire.

The guard was only rescued by staff starting duty at 5am.

The matter was reported to the police and a case of armed robbery was opened at Thaba Nchu Police Station and a manhunt was launched.

Luck ran out for three of the suspects aged between 38 and 40 after they were traced and found near Serwalo in Thaba Nchu at about 2am on Thursday and were arrested.

They were found with an undisclosed amount of money suspected to have been stolen during the robbery.

One suspect remains at large.

The three were due to appear in the Thaba Nchu Magistrates Court on Friday for business robbery. – Staff Reporter

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Garden scissor attacker nabbed

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THE CRIME TOOL . . . A 64-year-old man allegedly used this garden scissor to attack a man and his family

A 64-year-old man has been arrested after stabbing one person in the stomach with a broken garden scissor and injuring the victim’s family while holding them hostage.

Police say they were called to a place in Verkeerdevlei on Wednesday evening where a person had been stabbed in the stomach.

Upon arrival, they found a 53-year-old man who had been stabbed in the stomach with the broken scissor.

The suspect had already fled the scene.

“The victim was taken to hospital for medical treatment,” said Captain Stephen Thakeng in a brief statement.

Further investigations revealed that the same suspect went to the house of the victim’s 36-year-old daughter house where he held her and her two children – aged 13 and 15 – hostage.

“Tactical Response Team (TRT) members from Park Road were activated at about 21:30 and it was realised that the suspect was holding (the family) hostage in a three-roomed shack,” said Thakeng.

“The TRT members gained entry into the shack and rescued the three from the suspect.

“The three victims were also stabbed with the same half part of the big scissor.”

The suspect is facing a charge of attempted murder and three counts of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He will appear in the Verkeerdevlei Magistrates Court soon.

THE CRIME TOOL . . . A 64-year-old man allegedly used this garden scissor to attack a man and his family

Meanwhile, a man believed to be terrorising tuckshop owners around Bothaville was arrested on Wednesday following a tip-off by community members.

Police say they received information about a man with a firearm and who might be involved in robberies of tuck shops of foreign nationals at about 16:30.

The suspect’s house in Kgotsong was identified and members of Bothaville Crime Prevention approached it and asked for permission to search the place.

They were granted permission and a 9mm pistol was found and a 27-year-old man from Potchefstroom was arrested for possession of an unlicensed firearm.

The suspect will appear in the Bothaville Magistrates Court soon. – Staff Reporter

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