Ace Magashule’s graft trial shifted to 2024, but in the meantime he’s ‘thinking about’ starting a political party
Former Free State premier and ex-ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule appeared in court on Friday on fraud charges. Outside court, he revealed that he had been approached to start a political party, but was still thinking about it.
The case involving a multimillion-rand asbestos tender against former Free State premier and ex-ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and 18 co-accused – including former Mangaung mayor and former Free State human settlements MEC Olly Mlamleli – has been postponed to 2024 in the Bloemfontein High Court.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Ace Magashule asbestos corruption trial pushed back to January 2023
Advocate Johan de Nysschen, for the State, said defence counsel for all accused but one had agreed that the trial preliminary be set down between 15 April 2024 and 23 June 2024. One of the accused, Mahlomola John Matlakala – a government official – said he still needed to secure a legal representative since the one on record for him has been suspended as a legal practitioner.
Matlakala said he has financial challenges and cannot apply for legal aid because he does not fall in the required financial bracket to be eligible. He therefore needed time to appoint a legal counsel. He has until 19 May 2023 to do so.
Allegations at the centre of the case
The State alleges that fraud to the value of R255-million was committed in 2014 when the Free State human settlements department appointed service providers to assess and replace asbestos roofs of houses in the province, when they allegedly did not have the capacity to do so.
The other accused are Nthimotse Mokhesi, Sello Joseph Radebe, Kgotso Abel Manyike, Thabane Zulu and Sarah Matawana Mlamleli. Edwin Sodi, a businessman from Johannesburg and owner of Blackhead Consulting, scored the contract.
Alongside five companies they face charges including fraud, corruption, money laundering and contravention of asbestos regulations. The companies are: Blackhead Consulting, Diamond Hill Trading 71 (Pty) Ltd, 605 Consulting Solutions (Pty) Ltd, Mastertrade 232 (Pty) Ltd and Ori Group (Pty) Ltd.
All the accused have been out on bail ranging from R50,000 to R500,000 since their appearance in the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court in November 2020.
The latest on Magashule’s former PA
De Nysschen said Magashule’s former PA, Moroadi Cholota, initially agreed to return to South Africa from the US of her own will, as a witness in the trial. This undertaking had been placed on record in court before, but it now seemed the agreement “has gone out of the window”.
Her legal counsel said there was indeed an undertaking from her, but she was then arrested by Homeland Security in connection with her immigration status.
“We are not involved with immigration processes and we understand that the case has been withdrawn since,” De Nysschen said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Supreme Court slaps down Ace Magashule’s appeal against suspension
The trial, however, would continue with or without her.
Magashule and Sodi lost a Supreme Court challenge against their prosecution in the asbestos case, paving the way for the trial to start.
Magashule on starting a new political party
Magashule spoke to the media outside court – where some of his supporters gathered – reiterating that this is a political trial. He also responded to reports that he is in the process of starting a new political party. He said he had been approached – but would not say by whom – about the possibility and that he is “still thinking about it”. DM