Picture: ANC Secretary-General, Ace Magashule. Picture: Twitter
Durban - Corruption charges have been laid against ANC secretary-general and former Free State premier Ace Magashule following allegations that he meddled in a housing project tender in the Free State to ensure that a company allegedly linked to his daughter secured a lucrative contract worth R150 million.

Magashule’s daughter Thoko Malembe’s company allegedly netted R70m for the “shoddy job” on the project.

While Magashule could not be reached for comment yesterday, Dihlabeng Municipality denied wrongdoing. Municipal spokesperson Tshediso Maitse denied that Magashule had placed pressure on them in the tender process.

“We did not succumb to any pressure,” he said.

The criminal charges were filed in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, Act 12 of 2004, following an oversight visit by four DA officials to the Vogelfontein RDP Housing Development in Bethlehem on Monday.

They opened the charges against Magashule at Bethlehem police station.

During earlier site visits, the DA claimed they uncovered poorly constructed houses that did not have electricity, water and proper toilets.

This resulted in many residents having to make use of pit toilets and open holes, the party said in a statement.

It has been alleged that Magashule flouted tender procurement processes to ensure that a Chinese company, Unital Holdings, allegedly linked to his daughter, was paid R70m by the provincial Human Settlements Department to oversee the project.

DA MP Patricia Kopane said Magashule should be prosecuted for allegedly ensuring that Unital Holdings, of which Malembe was one of the directors until 2016, got the tender.

Malembe did not respond to phone calls and messages yesterday.

“Magashule flouted tender procurement processes to ensure that Unital Holdings received the contracts,” said Kopane.

Lawson Naidoo, a legal and political commentator and executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, said Magashule would be in serious trouble if police uncovered evidence that he had meddled with the tender procurement.

“If he had corrupt purposes then surely he could be held liable,” said Naidoo.

Influence

Kopane accused Magashule of being party to the “stealing” of the R70m paid to the company for the incomplete project and poorly built houses. The party alleged Magashule had used his position as the Free State premier to influence who received the lucrative tender.

“The entire project was to build 1050 houses. However, according to documents provided by the provincial Human Settlement Department, they completed 558 homes.

“In reality they completed about 198 houses. Only 138 are occupied by the beneficiaries,” she said.

Magashule is also linked to the Vrede dairy farm corruption allegations, in which the Guptas benefited from R570m meant for small-scale farmers, while Free State premier.

The Hawks are investigating that case.

According to media reports, Unital Holdings netted R150m in tenders in 2013 after Magashule allegedly instructed the municipality to terminate the contract that had been awarded to Emendo Corporate.

“Even in the minutes of the municipality it is clear that the municipality terminated the (Emendo) contract,” said Kopane.

DA MP Solly Malatsi said the purpose of the oversight visit was to collect information in order to report the matter to the human settlements portfolio committee in Parliament.

“Ace Magashule’s daughter resigned from that company, and we can only conclude that her resignation was because of the spotlight the project was gaining,” said Malatsi.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe did not respond to questions on the latest allegations against Magashule.

Political analyst Bheki Mngomezulu said that until Magashule was proved guilty in the minds of the voters, the DA would be seen to be trying to paint him in a negative light ahead of next year’s general elections.

“They are sending a message that ANC leaders cannot be trusted,” he said.

Analyst Somadoda Fikeni said the DA ran the risk of not being taken seriously if it “overused” the legal system against the ANC.

“There is a risk that if they tackle corruption by always opening a case and getting lawyers (involved) they could lose their impact on the public, as some of these matters will take a lot of time before they are heard in court,” said Fikeni.

The Mercury