South Africa

CORRUPTION CLAMPDOWN

Tribunal freezes pension fund of former state attorney office head

Tribunal freezes pension fund of former state attorney office head
Kgosi Lekabe, a former head of the state attorney’s office in Joburg, had his pension fund frozen pending the finalisation of legal proceedings initiated against him in December 2019.

A special tribunal established by President Cyril Ramaphosa in February 2019 to recover funds lost due to state corruption had its first sitting since its inception. In the hearing, the pension of Kgosi Lekabe, former head of the offices of the state attorney in Johannesburg, had his pension fund blocked pending a corruption trial.

A special tribunal, chaired by Judge Gidfonia Makhanya, blocked an attempt by former head of the office of the state attorney in Johannesburg, Kgosi Lekabe, to have his pension fund paid to him.

The hearing took place at the Booysens Magistrate’s Court. 

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), alongside the Minister of Police and the Minister of Justice, were seeking an interdict preventing Lekabe’s fund, worth R4-million, from being released by the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), pending the finalisation of legal proceedings initiated against Lekabe in December 2019.

Lekabe resigned from his post at the end of 2018, amid allegations of corruption and misconduct. His resignation followed his suspension on 2 October 2018, after his employer had brought 22 charges of misconduct against him. 

Some of these include financial impropriety and mishandling of financial affairs at the state attorney’s office.

The primary matter stems from an investigation by the Special Investigations Unit into several allegations of irregularities within the office of the state attorney, among those a case in which Lekabe and a junior colleague of his by the name of Hassan Kajee sought to settle a compensation claim to the tune of R34-million behind the state’s back.

The complaint was laid by Ayanda Kunene, a man who was shot by the police during a suspected hijacking. He was initially charged with the hijacking, but was later cleared of any wrongdoing. However, now wheelchair-bound after the incident, Kunene sought compensation from the ministry of police. 

It is alleged that Lekabe and Kajee attempted to settle the multi-million-rand claim behind the ministry’s back, which had not been aware that there had been a complaint laid against them.

On realising this, the minister of police’s office took the matter to court, to halt the bumper payout to Kunene. They succeeded, with the judge in the matter commenting that Lekabe and Kajee had a relationship which was “corruptive” in nature.

According to court papers filed by the SUI’s defence team, Kajee had been paid R66,522 a day for 17 consecutive months in connection with the compensation matter — a further R34-million over and above the R34-million relating to Kunene’s claim. This all happened under the watch of Lekabe.

“It is not disputed on the papers that this advocate (Kajee) was paid an exorbitant amount of over R34-million in 17 months. That is an objective fact, which when one looks at it, smacks one in the face to say that everyone in the legal fraternity should come to the conclusion that, ‘what did he do?’ He managed to earn a fee without any exclusions of holidays, public holidays, Saturdays, Sundays; in access of R65,000 a day. Now that clearly indicates or should indicate to this tribunal that there is clearly something wrong,” submitted Dawie Joubert SC, who was representing the SIU.

Counsel for the state said it was imperative that Makhanya grant the interdict as the pension fund was the only surety the state had in the event that it was successful in its litigation against Lekabe.

“His pension benefit is worth R4-million. This may be the only security if the applicants are successful. There is no alternative remedy. There is no prejudice to Lekabe, that money will be reserved and accumulate interest,” said Joubert.

Advocate Desmond Brown, representing Lekabe, countered that the SIU was targeting the wrong man as they themselves had said in their papers it was Kajee who benefited financially from the pair’s relationship.

“The allegations are, broadly, that the money that has been wrongfully paid out has been paid to Mr Kajee. Surprisingly they do not pursue Mr Kajee to recover that money. They should pursue Mr Kajee, and get the money from Mr Kajee,” Brown submitted to the court.

After a short adjournment, Judge Makhanya granted the SIU the interdict it sought, pending its case against Lekabe.

The date for the court case between the two parties is yet to be set. DM

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