South Africa

NEWSFLASH

Three more accused join Ace and others in the dock as asbestos case shifts to high court

Secretary General of the ANC, Ace Magashule appearing at the Bloemfontein magistrate court on charges of corruption and money laundering on Friday, 19 February 2021. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The asbestos corruption case involving ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule was moved to the Bloemfontein High Court on Friday, when the State admitted three more accused, bringing the number of people to stand trial to 11. Five companies are also listed as accused.

ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule and his co-accused are to appear before the Bloemfontein High Court on 11 August after the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court approved the State’s application to transfer the matter. 

Speaking before Friday’s appearance, Magushule said he was looking forward to 11 August because “we hoped for a speedy trial, because justice is delayed”.

This was Magashule’s second appearance since he was granted R200,000 bail. 

Bail granted to a defiant Ace Magashule who faces 21 counts of corruption and fraud

Various former and current high-level Free State government officials, including Magashule, face a number of charges, ranging from corruption to money laundering, for their alleged involvement in the multimillion-rand contract to audit and remove asbestos-roofed houses in the province. 

Ace Magashule, Pule Mabe and Victor Nkwashu outside The Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court on Friday, 19 February 2021. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

He was joined in the dock by Johannesburg businessman and owner of Blackhead Consulting, Pheagane Edwin Sodi; director supply chain management in the provincial Human Settlements Department, Mahlomola John Matlakala; Fourways businessman Sello Joseph Radebe; Pretoria businessman Abel Kgotso Manyeki; former director-general of the national Department of Human Settlements, Thabane Wiseman Zulu; and a former Free State MEC for human settlements and former mayor of Mangaung, Sarah Matawana Mlamleli.

They appeared alongside five companies – Blackhead Consulting, Diamond Hill Trading 71 (Pty) Ltd, 605 Consulting Solutions (Pty) Ltd, Mastertrade 232 (Pty) Ltd, and Ori Group (Pty) Ltd.

Accused number one in the case, the head of the Free State’s human settlements department, Nthimotse Mokhesi, was not in court on Friday for medical reasons.

His council told Magistrate Mxolisi Saliwa he had an operation on 16 February and was still in hospital. 

Mokhesi’s warrant of arrest was extended until the next court appearance. 

Secretary General of the ANC, Ace Magashule at the Bloemfontein magistrate court on Friday, 19 February 2021. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The three additional accused are: Nozipho Molokoe, the chief financial officer for the Free State Human Settlements Department from 1 December 2015 to 31 March 2017; Thabiso Makepe, the chief engineer of the department from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2017; and Albertus Venter, a lawyer and head of the legal department in the Free State Office of the Premier.

All three were released on R50,000 bail and handed over their passports.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said all the accused have been charged with more than 70 counts of fraud, theft, attempted theft, corruption in contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, money laundering and contravention of various asbestos regulations, promulgated in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993.

Secretary General of the ANC, Ace Magashule appearing at the Bloemfontein magistrate court on charges of corruption and money laundering, he is appearing with co-accused Bertus Venter, Thabiso Makepe and Nozipho Molikoe, on Friday, 19 February 2021. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The State alleges that between June 2015 and January 2016, Magashule may have received, or benefited from, unlawful payments of more than R1-million from the late Diamond Hill trading director, Phikolomzi “Igo” Mpambani. 

Mpambani was brutally murdered in Johannesburg in 2015 and as a result the State admitted Lindikhaya Mpambani as the representative of accused number five, Diamond Hill Trading 71 (Pty) Ltd, and Michele Antia Mpambani as the representative of 605 Consulting Solutions (Pty) Ltd cited (accused number 6). 

The State was expected to add to the charges on Friday, but did not.

When asked ahead of his appearance about potential additional charges, Magushule said the NPA “must do what it must”.

A crowd of Ace Magashule’s supporters at Hertzog Square after his appearance at the Bloemfontein magistrate court on Friday, 19 February 2021. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Scores of Magashule supporters defied Covid-19 regulations and gathered in song and dance near the court on Friday. Supporters kept chanting “we want special conference, we want special conference”, calling for a special conference of the ANC. The party’s constitution provides for special conferences. 

Magashule did not address his supporters, as he did during his first appearance. 

Explaining to supporters gathered outside Hertzog Square, former ANC Nelson Mandela Bay councillor and convicted felon, Andile Lungisa, admitted that the gathering was illegal and therefore barred Magashule from addressing them. 

Ace Magashule’s supporters on Hertzog Square in Bloemfontein after his appearance in the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court on Friday. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

At his previous appearance, a defiant Magashule said he was not going anywhere. 

“This ANC is an organisation of branches of the ANC. That is why I will respect the voices of the branches. If branches say I must step aside… I was elected by branches and conference. I will go back to a special conference and the branches must say to me, ‘comrade Ace Magashule, step aside’. I will do so. Nobody, and nobody can remove us,” he said. 

In December, the ANC’s Integrity Commission said the party’s national executive committee (NEC) must suspend Magashule, as per a resolution adopted at a special August 2020 anti-corruption meeting of the national executive. 

Ace Magashule drives through the streets of Bloemfontein and waves at his supporters, after his appearance at the Bloemfontein magistrate court on Friday, 19 February 2021. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Despite the tough ruling by the commission, which comprises reputable veterans, at the latest NEC general meeting the party said members accused of wrongdoing must step aside voluntarily.

The legality of the “step-aside” resolution remains a bone of contention in the party. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Coen Gous says:

    We all basically expected this court case to be transferred to the High Court. What basically concerns me is that the case has been postponed to August for pre-trail, still 6 months away. And there will possibly be another 6 months before the trial even starts. In the meantime, he will have ample time to continue his destruction work within the protected walls of the ANC.
    Hell, if all cases take that long, we will never see the hundreds of alleged corruption thieves in the public sector ever be placed in orange uniforms, certainly not in my life time. In this regard I would really appreciate an opinion in this regard from Prof. de Vos or other similar expert. Perhaps DM can follow-up on my request.

  • Helen Swingler says:

    A motorcade of crooks. Would that work as a collection noun? (I’ll bet that Audi doesn’t come with an asbestos sunroof.)

  • Phil Evans says:

    Civil servants of the seniority of these accused surely swore an oath of office upon their respective appointments. The breaching of their oaths needs to be added to their charge sheets with retribution commensurate with the levels of responsibility abandoned.

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