A FORMER KwaZulu-Natal doctor appeared in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court on Monday facing a charge of fraud. (File Picture: ANA)
A FORMER KwaZulu-Natal doctor appeared in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court on Monday facing a charge of fraud. (File Picture: ANA)

Doctor charged in R25m Sassa grant fraud case gets bail

By Lyse Comins Time of article published Sep 8, 2020

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Durban - A FORMER KwaZulu-Natal doctor appeared in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court on Monday facing a charge of fraud.

He has been charged along with 13 other suspects, including doctors and government officials, who allegedly defrauded the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) of more than R25 million.

Thabiso Cebekhulu, 50, who police had been searching for, for two years, is facing a charge of fraud along with his co-accused, after they allegedly defrauded Sassa of an estimated R25 953 000, the court heard during his bail application.

Several of his co-accused, some of whom are Sassa officials and doctors, who did not appear in court with him yesterday, are facing charges of fraud and corruption after allegedly offering to pay “gratification” to Sassa officials to process grant applications, and after allegedly accepting or offering or agreeing to accept a sum of around R8.6m to process grant applications.

Cebekhulu, who is a specialist in internal medicine, allegedly processed the fraudulent disability grants between 2005 and 2008 in Ngwelezane.

Prosecutor Nhlakanipho Mzulwini told the court the Hawks had struggled to find Cebekhulu for two years before his arrest on Friday.

“We went looking for him at his work and residence, and didn’t find him there. Then we got information that he was in Gauteng but we could not get him,” he said.

Mzulwini said police tracked him down at the Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein, where he was working for the Department of Health as a registrar. His place of residence was in Hartbeesport, in North West province, from where he commuted weekly to work and back.

Magistrate Dawn Soomaroo asked the State why it had not opposed Cebekhulu’s bail application, when it had taken police so long to find him.

Mzulwini said the State had not opposed bail because Cebekhulu was not aware of the case against him when he had moved provinces, and police were satisfied they had verified his work and home addresses.

Cebekhulu’s attorney Ashlae Naicker read her client’s affidavit in support of his bail application, in which he stated that he had no previous convictions. He said he supported his family and would lose his job or be suspended if bail was not granted.

“I am an honest man and will comply with any conditions set by the court. I am not a flight risk and have handed my passport to the authorities. I intend proving my innocence and intend pleading not guilty,” he said in the affidavit.

He said in the affidavit that he did not know the identity of any of the witnesses who would be testifying against him, adding that he would not interfere with the court processes.

Soomaroo granted him bail of R10 000 on condition that he report to Park Road Police Station in Bloemfontein twice a week, and that he does not leave his province of work and residence without notifying the Hawks investigating officer 48 hours beforehand.

Hawks spokesperson Simphiwe Mhlongo earlier said Sassa had deployed district manager Thembinkosi Gobza Dlamini to investigate the fraud matter at the time. However, Dlamini was shot and killed in his office six days after commencing his internal investigation. Six suspects were arrested and convicted in the Mtunzini High Court for his murder in 2018.

The Mercury

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