AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER
ANC secretary general Ace Magashule and 10 fellow accused have six months to prepare their defence against over 70 charges of fraud, corruption and theft in connection with the R250-million asbestos contract.
Magashule and his co-accused made a brief appearance in the Bloemfontein High Court today, where they were joined by three other Free State government officials who were arrested yesterday. The three were released on bail of R50 000 each.
The case against the 11 was postponed to August 11.
The National Prosecuting Authority’s spokesperson Sipho Ngwema told reporters outside court that the prosecution was ready to go to trial and that the postponement was necessary because the legal representatives of some of the accused were not available. Ngwema said the state has lined up more than 40 state witnesses against the 11 accused. “We would love to have proceeded with the trial in May, but the legal representatives of some of the accused are only available in August, but we are ready,” he said.
Outside court, Magashule said he hoped he would get a fair trial. He reiterated that he has done nothing wrong. “I’ll prove it in court,” he said.
Hundreds of ANC members who support Magashule have travelled from different provinces to show support for the secretary-general, who has faced calls for him to step down after he was charged. Among prominent ANC politicians who were in Bloemfontein are Bathabile Dlamini, the president of the ANC Women’s League, former North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo, Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina and MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus.
Magashule and the newly-arrested suspects joined three senior civil servants, a senior politician and three businessmen, who have appeared in court and were released on bail ranging between R50 000 and R500 000.
Seven of the 11 accused have had their properties, worth millions, seized and their bank accounts frozen.
In addition to Magashule, who is on bail of R200 000, the 10 suspects who are out on bail are:
- Nthimotse Mokhesi (61). Head of the Free State Department of Human Settlements. Bail: R100 000.
- John Matlakala (42). Director of Supply Chain Management in the Free State Department of Human Settlements. Bail: R50 000.
- Edwin Sodi (47). CEO of Blackhead Consulting. Bail: R500 000.
- Sello Radebe (56). Businessman. Bail: R100 000
- Abel Manyeki (38). Businessman. Bail: R50 000.
- Thabane Zulu (53). Former director-general of the Free State Department of Human Settlements. Bail R100 000.
- Sarah “Olly” Mlamleli. (63). Former MEC for Human Settlements in the Free State and ex-Mayor of Mangaung. Bail: R100 000.
- Nozipho Belina Molikoe, chief financial officer in the Free State Department of Human Settlement. Bail: R50 000.
- Thabiso Makepe, former chief engineer in the Free State Department of Human Settlement: Bail R50 000.
- Albertus Venter, former head of department in the Free State Premier’s Office: Bail: R50 000.
They face charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering, theft, attempted theft and contravention of the Asbestos Act.