South Africa

ASBESTOS SCANDAL

Ace Magashule’s R255m case ‘bears hallmarks of corruption’, says Free State prosecuting authority

Suspended African National Congress Secretary-General Ace Magashule outside the Free State High Court on 3 November 2021. (Photo: Gallo Images / Volksblad / Mlungisi Louw)

Prosecutors have dismissed Ace Magashule’s claim that they have no case against him in the Free State asbestos scandal, saying he instructed, or knew of his personal assistant’s requests for payments from his co-accused.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has accused suspended ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule of trying to delay his criminal trial in the R255-million Free State asbestos scandal, calling arguments in his application for seven declaratory orders from the court “vague” and “woefully inadequate”.

Magashule has been charged with fraud, corruption and money laundering regarding the 2014 contract the Free State Department of Human Settlements awarded to the Blackhead Consulting joint venture (JV) to audit and remove asbestos from homes.

Blackhead subcontracted the work multiple times, and of the R230-million paid only R21-million ended up with the company performing the work, and as a result many Free State residents still live in homes with asbestos.

While the case against the former premier and his 15 co-accused has been postponed multiple times, Magashule has applied to the Bloemfontein High Court to declare that he was not an executive authority with regards to the contract, to force the State to disclose a list of witnesses that implicate him, and to declare that there is no prima facie case against him that could result in a successful prosecution.

In an affidavit, Navilla Somaru, the acting Free State Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), said: “This course of conduct is designed with the intent to delay the criminal trial, and avoid Magashule having to plead to the numerous charges he is indicted for.

“What Magashule in fact seeks is a preview of the evidence of the State. The constitutional fair trial right he is afforded does not entitle him to a preview of the viva voce evidence of the State.”

She said the Constitution makes it clear that Magashule, as premier at the time, was an executive authority.

In his application, Magashule said there was no evidence in the docket of a legitimate case against him, leading to the conclusion that the trial was a politically motivated “fishing expedition” aimed at discrediting him and sidelining him from the ANC.

Public Protector confirms more than R200m squandered in Free State asbestos audit

Somaru said, “The facts in the State’s possession disclose that there is a prima facie case for prosecution and that there are reasonable prospects of such prosecution against Magashule emanating from these payments, and his request therefore and/or knowledge thereof.”

She outlined the list of payments that murdered businessman Ignatius Mpambani’s company Diamond Hill, which was part of the Blackhead group, made at the request of Magashule’s personal assistant Moroadi Cholota.

She said Mpambani had paid R470,000 for tablets from a company called M-TAG Systems, another R300,000 for tablets for Cuban students, R250,000 for a delegation to visit Cuba and R50,000 for school fees for Gupta associate Refiloe Mokoena’s daughter.

“It is worth noting that each payment as aforementioned followed shortly after the Blackhead Consulting JV received a payment from the Free State Department of Human Settlements purportedly due in connection with the asbestos contract,” said Somaru.

“In all circumstances, since the payments were made at the instruction of Magashule, or at least were requested in his knowledge, there is a case for him to meet.”

When Magashule was charged in November 2020, the NPA said Cholota would appear as a State witness. Somaru quoted an email Cholota sent to prosecutors that said she would give “100% cooperation” in the case and said she was cooperative until she met the NPA in the US, where she’s understood to be studying, in November.

Cholota has since decided not to testify as a State witness and Magashule wants a declaratory order stating such.

“Until the State’s last interview with her in the United States, during November 2021 the State was of the view that Cholota was a State witness, which was in keeping with the impression she created,” said Somaru.

“She was never forced or compelled to do so, and always met with the State without formal objection. It was only pursuant to that meeting that Cholota withdrew her cooperation. The State has now determined to charge Ms Cholota as a co-accused in this matter.”

While Magashule suggested Cholota was intimidated by prosecutors, Somaru said Magashule could not have known her position as he was prohibited from contacting the witness and he had not provided an affidavit from his former personal assistant. The DPP called the claim “woefully inadequate and devoid of any substance or admissible evidence”.

Somaru slammed the former premier’s claim that the case was politically motivated, calling it “entirely vague, respectfully romancing, and fanciful”.

While admitting that investigators called Magashule “Mr Ten Percent”, which he claimed proved bias, Somaru said that: “Magashule does not point to any politician who would have any vendetta against him and also having influence within the NPA, nor does he allege why this would be the case.” 

Somaru said that even if Magashule were able to prove that bias influenced the decision to prosecute him, the facts remained and he must argue his case in his criminal trial.

“The requests made and payments received pursuant thereto bear the hallmarks of corruption and satisfy the requirements of sections 3 and 4 of [the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act], which are some of the charges pursued against Magashule,” said Somaru.

“Cholota and Magashule must both answer as to why payments were sought from Mpambani, and especially at or surrounding the times payments were made to the Blackhead/Diamond Hill JV by the Free State Department of Human Settlements.” DM

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All Comments 17

  • Burn Magashule, burn. This is Case No.1. There will be several more coming, like Estina, but I am sure you have the direct count. And many of then will happen whilst you are fighting this one. I guess it is tiring moving from one court to another, with Supra and Niehaus in tow running up high fuel costs.
    P.s. I am sure you are aware that the Gupta’s can’t bail you out anymore. So I hope your piggy bank is big enough to pay your legal costs, because it will be significant, especially as you are doing your utmost to have cases either being dismissed or postponed, Stalingrad style

    • Coen, I am sure his piggy bank is overflowing as is JZ’s. They are receiving money from somewhere and the big question is where? Who from? How else do they fund the numerous court cases that they are defending ad infinitum?
      The trough feeders who have not yet been brought to book have millions stashed away, probably earning large amounts of interest in banks that should have closed their accounts a long time ago but would rather continue to receive their custom.
      I am not a conspiracy believer, but I am convinced that there is a whole underworld of dirty money financing the revolution against the state.

      • Yes, you are possibly 100% right. We can only hope that SARS, the SIU or financial institutions themselves will eventually uncover some stash hidden somewhere.

  • Freeze all Ace’s assets both locally and offshore. In addition freeze his salary. I know you are innocent until proven guilty, but there is sufficient evidence to hold him to account for his criminal deeds. All he has to do is repay all the stolen funds, and he can walk away. The alternative is to go to trial and spend a considerable time in prison – which doesn’t help RSA as he will still have his ill gotten loot waiting for him when he gets out of jail.
    Sue

  • He’s got access to more cash than the NPA he can buy the best advocates, the NPA has what’s left after Zuma chased the good ones away. Allow the NPA to use outside advocates when prosecuting top criminals.

    • Isn’t it time to investigate the advocates who represent this type of scum…as the recipients of proceeds of crime ? Maybe that is too tall a task for our rapidly corroding judicial system ! Let us not even talk about the so-called hapless JSC … infiltrated by a few corrupt individuals, where those with some integrity, do not even have the guts to openly call attention to or object to patently inflammatory/defamatory observations of the few corrupt ! So much for accountability and integrity.

      • Agree with you 100%. One of the biggest reasons why the NPA is battling so much. There are more defence attorneys representing the rubbish in our society than three are prosecutors. And they have zero accountability for the rule of law. With the ever increasing crime rate, how the hell is it even remotely possible to fight effective against criminals and defence advocates, considering the poor standard of the security cluster like the Hawks, Police, SSA, etc.
        But if the NPA can just land one big one, like Magashule, Gigaba, Molefi, Koko, Fraser, a host of current ministers, Surve, and, and, and, and….Off course, Zuma, the biggest criminal since the birth of our new democracy

      • No, Kuna, let the advocates do their job.

        You’re confusing personal emotions with the more important purpose of being a useful part of a very carefully designed process or system.

        Even the worst of people deserve goid legal representation. Because without that we might as well take a twittisphere temperature and just necklace people?

        • You’ve missed the point that Kuna made. This is not about the right of people to have legal representation or not. This is about blatant deeds of corruption where the accused can buy any advocate of his choice, at any price, at he/she has enough money stashed away due to proceeds of that corruption. And those advocates will then play the stalingrad game, knowing he will be paid. And if you follow cases carefully, you will note it is always the same advocates representing those corrupt individuals. In other words, they specialise in defending the corrupt.
          The average criminal have to rely on legal aid.

  • Which lawyers and advocates represent Magashule? The public needs to know who CHOOSES to defend this man. You know, for choosing legal representatives in the future

  • I do think that most people misunderstand the real difference between corruption and deliberate ideological intent in SA.

    The post-liberation ANC was flush with their political victory; hence everything about their process and ideology was deemed “right”. And everything about the Afrikaner Apartheid state was deemed “wrong”.

    Everyone forgot that the Afrikaner state was a similar anti-colonial intent stemming from the brutal “boer” wars.

    The ANC just assumed that Afrikaners or even white people were stupid, and all that was required to make SA a nirvana for all living here was whole-scale replacement of Apartheid (mostly white) aparichniks with black people.

    As we have seen, this ANC cadre deployment strategy has been an unmitigated disaster for SA. Like seriously, even we freedom fighters under Apartheid realise this now. Unfortunately the river is now flowing too strongly.

    So then the learnings. How exactly did the Apartheid state build so much in such a short time. Schools, universities, power infrastructure, roads?

    How can such a morally corrupt (apparently) regime have done so much practical good compared to the ANC government that followed?

    Mr Magushe is just part of the ANC black African corruption problem. The problem is not cadre deployment or nepotism et al. The problem is that the people now in power positions everywhere in SA are clearly incompetent.

    Whereas the Apartheid aparichniks, were at least competent.

    So, ideology anyone?

    • A very, very good analysis. Bottom-line, the past was bad, in two parts. The English colonialism, followed by the apartheid regime. But there was a good basic infrastructure, an Eskom that worked. Railways that worked, an educational system that were top class (at least for some), etc. etc. But it was also wrong, and a crime, from a humanist viewpoint. However, since the ANC got into power, basic infrastructure has collapsed in totality, to a situation where the whole country is now on its knees. Very, very few jobs for anyone, regardless of race or creed. Hungry people everywhere. A complete failure of citizen protection from criminals. And worse, corruption, incompetence, has become the norm, fuelled by a ruling party that is intend to rather enrich themselves as individuals. Where our well-being is being measured against the worse the continent has to offer.
      And the ANC calls it “progress”

    • Rolando you have made some very questionable points. Apartheid was not only immoral and amoral, it was not even competent as you say.
      If a government caters for a small minority of the population, and enslaves the rest – the majority, it is easy to provide state services e.g. education, health, police. All the infrastructure to support white people was built by exploitative means – cheap underpaid black people with no rights.
      Almost a type of slavery.
      The mines = South Africa’s source of mineral wealth recruited all the able bodied men from the rural areas and left the gogos and children. Therefor no development of Bantustans. Money from mines was exported to Anglo- ( England ) American. Bribes paid by the Apartheid gov to the appointees e.g Transkei , Boputswana etc to keep the ‘ natives happy’
      Affirmative action was absolute – white people got all the jobs on the railways, Post office etc.
      So please don’t think that 28 years is enough to right all these wrongs and persuade good people that they don’t need to be hewers of wood and carriers of water. Don’t expect people who knew that the law was immoral suddenly start to respect the law in all areas – when poverty is so widespread. Education is very complex. To try and understand is not to condone. It takes a long time to turn a ship around. At least we have labour laws and BEEE to try a little and level the playing fields.

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