NPA, Zuma foundation cross swords over graft case

NPA, Zuma foundation cross swords over graft case

An exchange of words has erupted between the state and the Jacob Zuma Foundation over the former president’s case, which is due back in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, on Tuesday.

The verbal tussle follows a statement issued by the Foundation, giving an impression that the matter had been postponed.

“We have noted that state, without stating a reason, has now said it will be ready to start with the criminal trial on 17 May 2021. This is not the first time such a promise is made, while we the Foundation doubt the bona fides or readiness of the state to ever run this case, we hope our judiciary will not tolerate any further postponement beyond this date,” charged the Foundation.

It said it would continue to push for the case to be struck off the roll until the state is ready to prosecute, instead of parading the former president as a criminal while wasting the taxpayers’ money.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has hit back, refuting the postponement claims.

Spokesperson Sipho Ngwema says it is disingenuous for the Foundation to pretend that the trial was set down for Tuesday.

“This Tuesday, February 23 was never a trial date but for the parties to resolve outstanding pre-trial management issues and agree on a trial date, among other housekeeping issues,” it says in a statement.

The state says it is ready for trial and its preferred date and that of the French arms company Thales’ defence team is May 17.

Thales’s South African subsidiary Thint won a R2.6-billion contract in to fit four new navy frigates with combat suites, as part of the 1999 Strategic Defence Procurement Package, known as the Arms Deal. 

The company is in the dock with Zuma for racketeering. It allegedly bankrolled the former president, through his then financial adviser Shabir Shaik, for political support to clinch the deal and for protection from scrutiny.

“The actual date of trial will be determined by the court taking into account its court roll – and availability of the state and the two defence teams,” says Ngwema.

Zuma faces charges of racketeering, two counts of corruption, one count of money laundering, and more than 10 counts of fraud relating to 783 payments he allegedly received in connection with the controversial arms deal.

It is not the first time his foundation accuses the NPA of delaying tactics. Last September, it berated the prosecuting authority for a delay in the matter, saying while the media accused Zuma of delaying tactics – it was actually the NPA that wasn’t ready to proceed.

Zuma’s homestead a hive of activity as Zondo standoff drags on

Zuma’s homestead a hive of activity as Zondo standoff drags on

The small rural town of Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal, is a hive of activity.

Members of uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) have descended on the area in support of former president Jacob Zuma.

Zuma faces arrest after defying a Constitutional Court ruling, ordering that he appears before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry that’s probing allegations of state capture.

This week was set aside for the former president to answer to allegations levelled against him by more than 30 witnesses at the commission.

However, Zuma refuses to appear before commission chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Zuma believes Zondo is bias and says the commission therefore does not have the attributes to conduct a fair, independent and impartial investigation or hearing that involves him or that contradicts the Commission’s script on state capture.

One of his other gripes is that the Commission took him to the Constitutional Court while he was still pursuing a review application over Justice Zondo’s refusal to recuse himself from the state capture inquiry when he testifies.

On Monday, he pulled a no-show at the commission – forcing it to continue without him.

Justice Zondo slammed the former president’s move as unnecessary, saying there was no valid reason for it.

While wrapping up proceedings, Justice Zondo said the Commission will file papers in the Apex court, asking that Zuma be jailed for contempt of court.

A sentence, the former president says, he awaits with bated breath.

“Now that it seems my role in the Commission has come to an end, I wait to face the sentence to be issued by the Constitutional Court. Accordingly, I stand by my statement I made of 01 February 2021 and no amount of intimidation or blackmail will change my position as I firmly believe that we should never allow for the establishment of a judiciary in which justice, fairness and due process are discretionary and are exclusively reserved for certain litigants and not others,” he says in a statement.

Zuma’s supporters are camping outside his homestead in Nkandla and have vowed to defend him.

They believe the former president is being unfairly targeted and is innocent of corruption claims that have been levelled against him.

Traders are also taking advantage of the moment.

They have set up shop, selling ANC gear, among others.

One Wits University School of Governance lecturer has called on the Constitutional Court to act against Zuma’s defiance.

Professor Ivor Sarakinsky says Zuma is playing a political game and can’t be allowed to continue disregarding the law.

ANC in a fix

While the ANC’s highest-decision making body, the NEC, over the weekend reiterated its call for members to cooperate with the Zondo Commission, the Zuma-Zondo saga has put the governing party in an awkward position.

It has once again exposed divisions within the governing party, which some political commentators believe is the reason for its inability to be decisive on the matter.

Earlier in February, ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule defended Zuma’s refusal to comply with the Constitutional Court ruling, saying he saw nothing wrong with it.

The party’s stalwarts and veterans on the other hand expressed concern over Zuma’s position on the Zondo Commission and called on the former president to follow the example of the country’s first democratically-elected president, Nelson Mandela, who appeared in the high court in Pretoria in 2011, when he was required to do so.

End of an era as Greyhound hits a cul-de-sac

End of an era as Greyhound hits a cul-de-sac

Johannesburg long distance commuters and students hoping to make their way to Park Station to catch the Greyhound bus ahead of the new semester and those travelling back home in coming months for the Easter break will have to make other arrangements.

On Wednesday, the Luxury passenger coach, Greyhound, announced that it will be closing its doors this month.

Its subsidiary, Citiliner, is also expected to stop all operations on Valentine’s Day.

It is unclear what drove the company to shut its doors after 37 years of service.

Union federation, Cosatu, has described the move as regrettable. 

The trade union federation’s spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, says many families will be left without an income.

Pamla says this is proof that South Africa needs a reliable, sustainable and integrated transport system.

The Democratic Alliance has called on Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, to hold talks with the company in a bid to avert the shutdown.

Newly-formed political formation, Abantu Batho Congress, has expressed concern about the lack of explanation on Greyhound’s demise.

The organisation says the company’s fall signifies the urgency to rescue South Africa from business and government created societal corruption.

“Unitrans Holdings (PTY) Ltd that operated and owned the Greyhound bus service, amongst others, a wholly owned subsidiary of KAP International Holdings a company that is also a shareholder at Steinhof, where in turn, KAP also holds 25.9% shares. A rather bizarre arrangement, especially when one considers the very complex and mixed up business interests held by Steinhoff across several industries. The concentration of assets by Steinhoff in retail, manufacturing, logistics and other sectors, is placing many jobs at risk across South Africa, this would certainly be worsened by the COVID 19 pandemic,” it says.

The organisation adds that: “Now, terrible as this loss of the Greyhound bus service may be, the real tragedy lies in the loss of complete governance and controls at Steinhoff and the subsequent lack of action and recourse against Steinhoff by South African authorities, namely the Hawks.”

According to the company’s website, Greyhound services close to a million passengers a year, while Citiliner carries half a million a year. 

Some of its customers have taken to social media to pay homage to the company that’s made their travel bearable over the years.

Ex Gauteng Health senior officials facing graft charges out on bail

Ex Gauteng Health senior officials facing graft charges out on bail

Four former senior government officials in the Gauteng Department of Health (GDoH) and two businessmen were granted bail by the Specialised Commercial Crime  Court in Palm Ridge on Thursday

Sybil Ngcobo, former head of department and accounting officer for the (GDoH); Mmakgosi Mosupi, former Chief Director of Information and Communications Technology; Valdis Romaano, former Director of Supply Chain Management; and Obakeng Mookeletsi, Deputy Director General, Executive Support Program Manager, appeared on charges of corruption and contravention of Public Finance Management Act.

Ngcobo is out on R8 000 bail, Mosupi, Ramaano  and Mooleletsi R25 000.

John Richard Payne and Phil Austin, and their respective companies, Ukwakha Dezign (Pty) Ltd and Life Channel Communications (Pty) Ltd, were also expected to appear alongside the four. Their warrants of arrest could not be executed as they are out of the country.

The matter relates to a 2008 tender for the provision of HIS and e – HR systems. Subject to confirmation of the funding by the Gauteng Treasury, the tender was awarded to the Baoki Consortium, which consisted of AME Africa (Pty) Ltd, Health System Technology (Pty) Ltd, AMETHST (Pty) Ltd and Equiton Investments (Pty) Ltd. 

The estimated cost for the new HIS and e-HR systems was R630 million. However, the final total value of the tender awarded to Baoki Consortium was R1 045 174 125.12.

A company called 3P Consulting (Pty) Ltd (3P) was appointed by the GDoH to manage various contracts on its behalf. A Service Level Agreement (SLA) was signed on 28 March 2008 between the GDoH and the Baoki Consortium. 

The state alleges that on 23 May 2008, Mosupi and Mr Mookeletsi, together with representatives of the Baoki Consortium (AME, HST Technology and Equiton), signed a change order to allow Baoki Consortium, through AME, to procure the services for the provision of power (generators), furniture, network, computer literacy training and catering.

The value of the change order was R13 369 693.

“The services that were procured by Baoki Consortium as a result of the May 2008 change order were not services related to the original tender listed in the RFP. The change order was supposed to be a separate tender or to be procured internally by the GDoH on a tender basis. The supplier for the furniture as stated in the change order above was Ukwakha Design (Pty) Ltd (Ukwakha).  This company was owned by Payne. This meant that the Baoki Consortium contract was managed by 3P, with Payne as one its directors. In turn, the sub-contracting company which supplied furniture, Ukwakha, was owned by Payne.
The negotiations for the HIS and e-HR rollout agreement for the GDoH was handled by 3P on its behalf.  The rollout agreement needed a signature from the Gauteng MEC for Finance to be an effective agreement which can legally bind the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) for future financial commitments.”

Despite the need for the rollout agreement to be compliant with the PFMA, 3P and the health department allegedly failed to acquire the written authorisation from the Gauteng Provincial Treasury (GPT).

On the 27th of October 2008, the GDoH was warned in writing that it could not procure the services of the Baoki Consortium due to lack of funding thus future financial commitments would be in contravention of the PFMA and would not bind the Provincial Revenue Fund. 

Despite the above warnings, Ngcobo and her two senior officials, Mosupi and Ramaano, allegedly signed the SLA on 03 November 2008.

After the signing of the rollout agreement, on 26 November 2008, Mosupi submitted a change order for the provision of Gauteng Wide Satellite Based WAN. There was subsequently a change order proposing to add services for the provision of a Gauteng Province Wide Area Network (WAN). The submission was recommended by Mookeletsi, on the 27th of November 2008. The RFP for the HIS and e-HR did not include the service of network connectivity as one of the services to be supplied or rendered.

In a motivation which was submitted by Mosupi, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) says it was recommended that the contract be awarded to TLC Africa VSAT Solution (TLC Africa).

A change order was signed on 16 January 2009 allowing Baoki to provide the service. On 12 February 2009, an SLA was then entered into and signed between Life Channel and AMETHST (a Baoki Consortium member). The contract value for the VSAT solution was R203 936 304.79. 

No competitive bids were invited by the accounting authority although the value was above R500 000.

The agreement with the Baoki Consortium was cancelled during 2009. It is alleged that Life Channel, through its director, Austin, paid for Mosupi’s family to visit London and that the trip was facilitated through 3P. 

AMETHST, member of the Baoki Consortium, is also accused of making several large deposits into a bank account in the name of Mookeletsi, totaling R300 000. Payne and Ukwakha Dezign are said to have covered the cost for the refurbishment of Romaano’s house to the value of R952 358.

The Hawks’ investigation follows that of the Special Investigating Unit in 2010.

Former SIU head, Willie Hofmeyer, has hailed the developments.

In a FaceBook post, he has said: “Well done to the Investigating Directorate!!! At last, action on the biggest Asset Forfeiture case done at the time (2010). Working with SIU and the National Treasury, we recovered about R1.4 billion that was being siphoned off by senior ANC members in Gauteng. Unfortunately I still do not know why the NPA in Gauteng did not prosecute the case. I hope the NPA will hold someone accountable for this. We tried to resuscitate it while Nxasana (Mxolisi) was head of the NPA, but he was removed before anything could happen.”

He adds that:” After that state capture go into full swing and nothing appeared to have been done to prosecute the case until now. Lots of strenght to the NPA team.”

The case has been postponed to 3 December.

‘Blue lights’ fraud trial set down for November

‘Blue lights’ fraud trial set down for November

Nine senior police officers and three civilians accused of colluding to issue a tender to install 1 550 police motor vehicles with warning lights, known as blue lights, at a grossly inflated price will return to court next month.

Yesterday, Deputy National Police Commissioner Bonang Mgwenya was arrested in connection with the case.
She appeared before the Palm Ridge Magistrate Court and was released on R20 000 bail
.

The company that won the 2017 deal, represented by its sole director Vimphie Mantatha, is also listed as a respondent in the case, bringing the total number of suspects to 13.  

The state alleges that during the procurement process, the accused disregarded the competitive bidding process; committing SAPS to R191 million in favour of Manthatha’s company in exchange for benefits.

“The tap was turned off after R65 million was paid to the service provider, ‘Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement (Pty) Ltd. Payment of the remaining R22 million was stopped as a direct result of the work of IPID investigators working with SAPS and the Hawks investigators under the leadership of the Investigating Directorate,” says the NPA’s Investigating Directorate.

The 13 accused face charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering.

“IPID remains committed in its constitutional mandate of investigating any alleged police misconduct, once more our seasoned investigators have done a commendable job’’ IPID Executive Director Jennifer Ntlatseng has said. 

National Police Commissioner Kehla Sitole has thrown his weight behind the investigating teams.

“My position regarding criminality by members within the ranks of the SAPS has been made clear by the arrest of a multitude of SAPS members by a task team reporting to me on investigations into vehicle-marking-tender fraud as well as our support to the ID in respect of the blue-light-tender fraud investigation,” says Sitole.

Former acting National Police Commissioner, Khomotso Phahlane and former Gauteng Provincial Police Commissioner Deliwe de Lange are among the accused in the blue lights matter.

Their trial is set down for the 16th  of November to the 10th of December.

Top cop arrested in ‘blue lights’ scandal

Top cop arrested in ‘blue lights’ scandal

A high-ranking police officer has been arrested in a pre-dawn raid in Gauteng.

She is a 13th accused and a ninth police officer to be nabbed in the 2017 multi-million rand police warning equipment tender scandal.

Former National Police Commissioner, Khomotso Phahlane, a brigadier and former Gauteng police commissioner Deliwe de Lange are among the accused.

They face corruption, fraud, theft and money laundering charges.

Their case relates alleged irregularities to the supply of emergency warning equipment for the South African Police Services in 2017.

The tender won by Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement (Pty) Ltd was contracted at R191 million – R65 million was paid to the company.

According to the NPA’s Investigating Directorate –  a R22 million payment was stopped at an advanced stage  amid a probe into the matter.

The accused arrested today is being processed at the Hillbrow Police Station in Johannesburg.

She is expected to appear in the Palm Ridge Magistrates’ Court later in the day.