AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Five Mpumalanga administrators and a clerk arrested for R60m vehicle licensing fraud
The six are alleged to have fraudulently redetermined the classification of hundreds of vehicles to avoid the payment of licensing fees and penalties.
Six suspects, including five vehicle licensing officials, have been arrested in connection with a R60-million vehicle licensing fraud in Mpumalanga. The Hawks have indicated that more arrests are imminent.
The arrests follow a combined investigation by the Hawks and the Road Traffic Management Corporation’s National Traffic Anti-Corruption Unit (NTACU) into officials of the Mpumalanga Department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison suspected of being involved in a vehicle licensing fraud ring.
The six accused, Xoliswa Celia Ngelwane (51), Nompumelelo Winnie Nxumalo (44), Nkosinathi Samuel Gumede (37), Agnes Nozipho Ndzinisa (53), Thembi Millicent Motlohi (42) and Alman Thabang Masuku (42), appeared briefly in the Nelspruit Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
NTACU spokesperson Simon Zwane said five provincial administrators and a Mbombela municipal clerk are alleged to have fraudulently redetermined the classification of hundreds of vehicles to avoid the payment of licensing fees and penalties.
“Further investigation by NTACU revealed that the province has lost close to R60-million in revenue as a result of the alleged unlawful activities of the suspects,” Zwane said.
The six accused face 603 counts of fraud, corruption and money laundering. The alleged crimes were committed between 2018 and 2019 and it is believed the suspects colluded with many other officials in the province.
Mpumalanga Hawks spokesperson Captain Dineo Sekgotodi said more arrests were imminent.
National Prosecuting Authority Mpumalanga spokesperson Monica Nyuswa said the suspects were released on R15,000 bail each and the matter had been postponed to 29 September for further investigation.
“Five of the accused were employed by the Mpumalanga Provincial Administration of the Department of Community Safety and Liaison, as administrators, while the other accused was a clerk at the Mbombela Municipal Registering Authority.
“Between 2018 and 2019, the six accused allegedly conducted unlawful transactions… by licensing private motor vehicles as though they belonged to the government departments, resulting in a loss of millions of rands,” Nyuswa said.
This is the fourth allegation of fraud and corruption involving traffic officials in Mpumalanga in the past couple of months.
Last month, former traffic official Sello Jerry Thomo (50) was convicted on 50 counts of corruption and fraud in the Ermelo Magistrates’ Court. He was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment, of which three years were suspended for five years. He was also given a one-year sentence for fraud, to run concurrently with the other sentence.
According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation, Thomo worked at the Ermelo licensing office and fraudulently issued learners’ and drivers’ licences to people who had not been tested.
Extortion and corruption
On 13 July, two Mpumalanga traffic officers were dismissed after facing internal disciplinary proceedings on charges of corruption, while three other officers were arrested on charges of extortion and corruption.
The two dismissed officers, Mfanafuthi Gift Hleza and Octavia Yende, stationed at Msukaligwa Local Municipality and at Ermelo Traffic Department respectively, were charged with corruption after they allegedly bribed an undercover officer of the National Traffic Anti-Corruption Unit. After lengthy internal disciplinary hearings, both officers were found guilty of corruption and dismissed.
On 11 July, the anti-corruption unit, with the Tshwane Integrity and Standards Unit, arrested three Tshwane Metro Police Department officers on allegations of corruption. It is alleged that the officers pulled over a motorist in Pretoria East and told her that her car should not be on the road as she was using a permit that did not have a dealer’s stamp.
“They allegedly threatened to impound the vehicle if she did not pay a bribe of R3,000 on the spot. The driver indicated that she did not have money and could not afford to lose her car and was let go,” Zwane said.
She was later stopped by the Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Community Safety in Tshwane. She told him of her encounter and he promised to follow up.
It is alleged that a metro police vehicle followed her to her house and that two of the officers who had previously stopped her asked her to deposit, via e-wallet, a bribe of R3,000.
The driver, Zwane said, deposited the money and informed the MMC of the transaction. The MMC reported the incident to the Tshwane Integrity and Standards Unit, leading to the arrest of the officers for extortion and corruption. DM
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