High profile arrests in unprecedented national crackdown on fraud and corruption in South Africa

AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER 

SOUTH African law enforcement authorities have unleashed an unprecedented major crackdown on corruption in a series of busts in which politicians, business people, top civil servants and police officers were arrested for crimes involving hundreds of millions of rands.

Arrests have been made in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State in joint action by the South African Police, the Hawks, the Special Investigating Unit and the National Prosecutions Authority. The law enforcement agencies say more arrests are imminent.

In a dramatic three days, the first high profile was that of Vincent Smith, the former chairperson of Parliament’s Correctional Services Committee, who was arrested for fraud and corruption and released on a bail of R30 0000.

His arrest was followed by co-ordinated arrests, in three provinces, of the “Asbestos Seven”, who include a politician, businessmen and top civil servants implicated in a R255-million asbestos tender scandal.

The “Asbestos Seven” gained their freedom after paying bail ranging between R50 00 and R500 000 but now have had their properties, worth millions, seized and their bank accounts frozen. 

The seven suspects 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: R100 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.

The “Asbestos Seven” were told by the presiding officer that he was satisfied that the state has a prima facie case against each of them. The seven face charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering, theft, attempted theft and contravention of the Asbestos Act.

The seven were charged along with the companies they own. The companies are Blackhead Consulting, Diamond Hill Trading, 605 Consulting Solutions, Mastertrade 232 and Ori Group.

Their appearance follows a dramatic three days during which the seven were arrested in raids conducted by the Hawks. They are expected back in court on November 11. The Hawks expect to make more arrests.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the Hawks pounced on businessman Thoshan Panday and a serving police officer Colonel Navin Madhoe. They were arrested in connection with fraud and corruption related to procurement for the police during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

 Panday appeared in the Durban Magistrates where he was charged with fraud, extortion, corruption, and forgery in connection with a R47-million tender. He was released on a R100 000 bail.

Madhoe, who worked in the SAPS supply chain management faces various charges including fraud and bribery. He is out on a R10 000 bail. The matter was postponed to 11 November. The two are expected to be joined in the dock by former SAPS KwaZulu-Natal provincial commissioner Mamonyane Ngobeni and Aswin Narainpershad who are  expected to face corruption charges.

In a separate operation, the  Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal also arrested a senior official in the office of provincial Premier Sihle Zikalala for fraud and corruption linked to a R20 million catering tender.

Those charged in connection with the alleged crimes  include Premier Zikalala’s personal assistant Nomusa Zwake, chief financial officer Ziphathe Cibane, admin officer Sithembiso Msomi and admin clerk Njabulo Makhathini. Gugu Kheswa, a service provider, was also arrested in the first sweep.

In Limpopo, a municipal manager was arrested in connection with suspected fraud and corruption involving a R4.8-million tender. 

The crackdown and the declaration by the law enforcement agencies that more arrests would be made, has triggered panic with the ANC ranks. “Who is next”, is the new buzzword in ANC circles. 

Talk in those circles is that the Hawks are also planning to arrest Limpopo-based ANC politicians in relation to the looting of VBS Mutual Bank as well as those in the Free State implicated in the Astina Diary scandal.