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Former Mahikeng municipal manager faces slew of charges for unlawful sale of council land worth R144m

Former Mahikeng municipal manager faces slew of charges for unlawful sale of council land worth R144m
Hennie Smit, a former municipal manager of Mahikeng Local Municipality in North West, was released on R150,000 bail on 10 October 2023. (Photo: Hawks North West)

Hennie Smit, a former municipal manager of Mahikeng Local Municipality in the North West, is facing a slew of charges including fraud, theft and money laundering regarding the 2007 sale of municipal land worth millions of rands. He was released on R150,000 bail on Tuesday.

Former Mahikeng municipal manager Hennie Smit (70) was arrested by members of the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Investigation and Serious Commercial Crime Investigation units on Tuesday 10 October. He appeared in the Molopo Magistrates’ Court hours later.

Smit was released on R150,000 bail. The conditions include that he does not interfere with state witnesses and inform the investigating officer if he travels outside Gauteng, where he lives.

More arrests are expected once investigations are completed.

Read more in Daily Maverick: North West: The pathology of a corrupt province

According to North West National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Henry Mamothame, Smit’s arrest is related to the unlawful sale of municipal land to the value of R144-million without council approval and while ignoring the competitive bidding process.

Smit is charged with fraud, theft, corruption, money laundering and contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act, the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, and the Public Finance Management Act.

Detailing the charges, Mamothame said: “It is alleged that on 31 October 2007, Smit illegally agreed with a company for the sale of land belonging to the municipality. The said company only paid R5-million as a deposit to purchase the land.”

Investigations, he added, revealed that the company went into liquidation in December 2011 without paying the municipality the outstanding debt. The assets of this company were subsequently sold at auction to another company for R16-million.

North West Hawks spokesperson Tinyiko Mathebula said: “The Hawks probe revealed in April 2012 that the new owners of the land changed their company name and, between 2013 and 2015, they sold and transferred portions of the land to five other companies and a trust account.

“Investigations also revealed that directors and shareholders of these companies had links to the company that was liquidated and that they acted in common interest in illegally making gains from the municipal land that was acquired irregularly.”

Mathebula explained that the Hawks also established that the company that bought the land on auction allegedly entered into an unlawful agreement with the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) to build 2,400 units at a value of more than R301-million.

“An amount of R54-million was allegedly authorised by the North West Department of Human Settlements for the start of the project. This contract, however, failed to materialise, as it was not budgeted for by the SHRA.

“Investigations also revealed that an amount of over R550,000 was paid as gratification to one suspect and it was further traced to a purchase of a house for the accused’s daughter,” Mathebula said.

Dr Rachel Makhari, Director of Public Prosecutions in the North West, together with provincial Hawks head Major General Patrick Mbotho, lauded the teams from their respective entities for ensuring that perpetrators are brought to account.

Smit is due back in the Molopo Magistrates’ Court on 8 December. 

There are other North West corruption cases currently in court.

Four suspects and three companies are facing charges relating to a high-profile case in North West that was amplified in the second report of the Zondo Commission. The commission found that an SA Express contract worth R400-million was riddled with procurement irregularities and money was paid for services not rendered.

Former North West health department head Dr Andrew Lekalakala is facing charges of fraud, contravention of the Public Finance Management Act and violating the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. 

The charges stem from the alleged fraudulent awarding of a contract for mobile clinics in February 2017 to Mediosa, a company linked to the Gupta family. 

The clinics were intended to serve rural communities in the North West. 

It is alleged that Lekalakala approved payments of R30-million to Mediosa before it had even rendered any services. DM

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