Top ANC politician granted R30 000 bail and vows to prove his innocence

AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER

VINCENT Smith, who has become the first high profile ANC politician to be arrested for corruption related to the state capture inquiry, has vowed to prove his innocence.

Smith (60)  was arrested and appeared in Special Commercial Crimes Court in Palmridge, outside Johannesburg, where he was charged with corruption. He was granted bail of R30 000, ordered to hand in his passport and not to interfere with state witnesses.

He is a former MP and ex-chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on Correctional Services.

The charges relate to amounts totalling R660 000 that he received from Bosasa

In an affidavit to support his bail application, Smith denied the charges, said he will plead not guilty.

He said: “I will stand my trial. I am determined to prove my innocence.”

Smith told the court that he is a divorced pensioner on a R21 000 monthly income and lives with his son in Roodepoort.

Smith handed himself to the police this morning. 

He has admitted receiving R690 000 from Bosasa, a company that was awarded contracts worth millions by the Department of Correctional Services but said these were loans and not kickbacks. 

Smith told the Zondo Commission that he had approached Bosasa COO Angelo Agrizzi for a personal loan in 2015 to help pay for his daughter’s university fees. He denied testimony from Agrizzi that the amounts were kickbacks payments from then Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson. Two payments were made to Smith, through his company’s bank account, valued at 265,000 and R395, 000.

ANC politician Vincent Smith, former chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on Correctional Service.

Smith told the commission that he had a verbal agreement with Agrizzi that the money would be paid back when his company shares matured in 2023. Smith said because the money was paid through his company where it was audited and recorded as a loan.

The arrest of Smith and separately, other senior state officials and business people implicated in fraud and corruption comes two years after the government threatened a crackdown against fraud and corruption.

In a major breakthrough, the Hawks, South Africa’s elite investigations urgency, have arrested six people, among them a politically connected businessman who has admitted to donating millions to the ANC and giving huge amounts of money to members of the governing party.

Edwin Sodi, the businessman who made his donations to the ANC from profits made from a questionable R255-million and man suspected to be kingpin in what has come to be known as the “asbestos scandal”, has been arrested.

Sodi, the CEO of Blackhead Engineering, and the six other individuals were arrested by the Hawks, in connection with suspected fraud and corruption around the project. The arrests followed investigations done by Special Investigations Unit which followed a proclamation by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said the suspects are scheduled to appear in Bloemfontein on Friday.  They are expected to face at least 60 charges.

Sodi told the Zondo Commission, investigating fraud, corruption and capture of the state by individuals, civil servants and politicians, that he had made an R6.5-million donation to the ANC and made several other payments to senior ANC officials, including a cabinet minister and a deputy minister.

Sodi admitted that while his company received the tender, it did not have the expertise or accreditation to handle hazardous material and conduct an asbestos audit. His company was awarded the R255-million contract, then subcontracted Mastertrade for R51-million to do the work. It then pocketed R200 million for doing nothing.

In 2017, Sodi’s partner Ignatius Mpambani was gunned down in Sandton, Johannesburg.

*In a separate development, the Gauteng government has suspended the province’s head of health for failure to act responsibly when tenders worth hundreds of millions were awarded for the procurement of COVID-19 related goods and service.

Provincial spokesperson Thabo Masebe said Gauteng premier David Makhura placed Professor Mkhululi Lukhele, the head of the department  of health, under precautionary suspension with immediate effect. 

Makhura acted on the recommendations of the Special Investigating Unit after the update report presented to him on September 22.

“The Special Investigating Unit found that the head of department failed to exercise his responsibility in the awarding of contracts to certain companies for the procurement of goods and services in relation to the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The actions, or omission by the HOD, may have resulted in the department incurring fruitless and wasteful expenditure,” Masebe said.

Lukhele was the HOD  at the time when the Gauteng health department awarded questionable contracts running into hundreds of millions of rands. His suspension follows that of his political principal, Dr Bandile Masuku, the Gauteng MEC of Health.