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State has ‘irrefutable evidence’ to convict Zandile Gumede and 21 alleged co-conspirators in R320m graft trial

State has ‘irrefutable evidence’ to convict Zandile Gumede and 21 alleged co-conspirators in R320m graft trial
ANC eThekwini region chairperson and former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede (centre) arrives in good spirits with supporters at the Durban High Court. She faces charges of corruption and racketeering (Photo: Mandla Langa)

After hearing the evidence, said prosecutor Hazel Siramen, the court would be hard-pressed to reach a conclusion other than of the accused being guilty.

Nearly four years after former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede was criminally charged for graft within the city’s solid waste department, a key witness, and the State’s first, had to leave the stand as no one could hear him speak.

The audio mishap came on Tuesday, day two of the trial, just moments after Judge Sharmaine Balton stopped any live recording of the head of the city’s Integrity and Investigations Unit (CIIU), Mbuso Ngcobo.

zandile gumede

Former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

Balton was forced to postpone the matter to Wednesday, 8 March after the gallery, accused and lawyers protested that they could not hear Ngcobo.

He was expected to give evidence on what precipitated the investigation and outline what followed, but had to cut short his testimony because of the audio problems.

In the first part of the day’s proceedings, prosecutor Hazel Siramen gave a summary of what was to follow while completing the opening statement that she started on Monday, 6 March.

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She told the court that Ngcobo’s evidence, along with the evidence provided by Integrity Forensic Solutions (IFS) — a private company contracted by the CIIU and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) — would clearly detail how the corruption racket worked. After hearing the evidence, said Siramen, the court would be hard-pressed to reach any conclusion other than the accused being guilty.

The accused are standing trial for allegedly orchestrating and taking part in a corruption racket that defrauded the eThekwini metro of in excess of R320-million through the manipulation of a solid waste and garbage collection tender issued by Durban Solid Waste (DSW).

Gumede has been labelled by the State as the “principal controller of the enterprise”.

Along with her co-accused, she is alleged to have manipulated and circumvented supply chain management (SCM) protocols and policies that led to the waste tender ballooning from R45-million to R320,995,973.

Siramen informed the court that the evidence on hand would show that the key suspects — Gumede (accused No 1), former ANC executive city councillor Mondli Mthembu (accused No 2), former city manager Sipho Nzuza (accused No 3), Robert Abbu (accused No 4,) who at the time of the alleged crimes was Durban Solid Waste’s deputy head for strategic and new developments, and Sandile Ngcobo (accused No 5), who was deputy head of supply chain management at the municipality, all benefited from the scheme.

“Accused five benefited in the amount of R600,000 [from payments from the service providers] which went towards the purchase of a Jaguar F-Pace. Accused one, while holding the position of mayor in eThekwini municipality, received a benefit of R2,881,350… [from payments from the service providers]. These benefits were not disclosed to the municipality.”

The key documentary evidence

Siramen went on to outline the key documentary evidence that Ngcobo would be giving.

Ngcobo had approached Integrity Forensic Solutions (IFS) to conduct a forensic investigation after his unit received numerous tip-offs on the alleged scheme.

The IFS report was referred to the South African Police Service and a docket was opened in December 2018.

Siramen said the CIIU, SAPS and Hawks entered into a memorandum of agreement that IFS would support any litigation based on their investigation.

“We will present evidence on the processes related to the collection of source documents and evidence in respect of the audit trail of the DSW tender, as well as submissions made by employees responsible for the audit trail of the DSW tender. We will also present evidence on the analysis and interpretation of the data and information obtained from the investigation team of the DPCI.

“Leo Saunders, director of Integrity Forensic Solutions (IFS), will give a detailed report on all the offences that were committed before, during and after the period of the award of the DSW tender. Saunders conducted a forensic investigation into the circumstances surrounding the award of the DSW tender and the circumstances that prevailed after the award.”

Siramen said the evidence would support the findings that Gumede, Mthembu, Nzuza, Abbu and Ngcobo “entered into an agreement… to circumvent the outcome of the SCM protocols” to award the DSW tender in favour of “accused 12,14, 17 and 20 which are the juristic entities under the control of accused 10, 11, 13, 15, 16 and 19”.

The other accused are:

  • Accused 6, ANC councillor Mthokozisi Nojiyeza;
  • Accused 7, ANC councillor Sduduzo Khuzwayo;
  • Accused 8, ANC councillor Bhekokwakhe Phewa;
  • Accused 9, Bagcinile Nzuza, the wife of Sipho Nzuza;
  • Accused 10, project manager Hlenga Sibisi;
  • Accused 11, businessman Mzwandile Dladla;
  • Accused 12, Dladla’s company Ilanga la Mahlase Pty Ltd.
  • Accused 13, businessman Zithulele Mkhize;
  • Accused 14, Mkhize’s company Uzuzinekele Trading CC;
  • Accused 15, businessman Bongani Dlomo;
  • Accused 16, businessman Khoboso Dlomo;
  • Accused 17, the Dlomos’ company, Omphile Thabang Projects;
  • Accused 18, businessman Craig Ponnan;
  • Accused 19, businessman Prabagaran Pariah;
  • Accused 20, Pariah’s company El Shaddai Holdings Group CC;
  • Accused 21, businesswoman Sithamone Ponnan; and
  • Accused 22, Ponnan’s company Umvuyo Holdings Group CC.

Siramen said the roles of each of the accused supported the racketeering charges.

“It is clear that the predicate offences of fraud and corruption gave rise to a host of other offences, including, amongst others, money laundering and contravening sections of the Municipal Finance Management Act and the Municipal Systems Act.

“These offences were committed in line with the common objectives of the roleplayers in the racket. It is submitted that at the conclusion of the State’s case, there would be irrefutable evidence to convict the accused persons and the only verdict that can be returned by this honourable court is one of guilty.”

Siramen said the investigation also found that city employees working at various landfill sites manipulated protocols “to support the common objectives of accused one and two in agreement with the other accused”.

She said the wide-ranging racket was undertaken to create the impression of the delivery of services far in excess of what had actually been delivered, thereby enabling the service providers to be paid far beyond what was due. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    One has to wonder if the live recording was sabotaged and if Ngcobo remains alive until the end of this trail! Such are things in SouthAfrica today as we devolve as a civilised society into chaos and anarchy.

  • Jeremy Collins says:

    When it comes to elaborate graft schemes, ANC cadres are hard and diligent workers. If they made half the amount of effort to do their actual jobs, we’d be 50% better off.

    Hey, maybe that’s the ANC’s 2024 campaign slogan? “Let’s go 50/50”

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