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DURBAN - A former senior government employee, who once had a security clearance that allowed him access to some of the country’s top-secret information, has found himself on the wrong side of the law.

Leon Abednigo Mbangwa, 55, appeared in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court on charges of fraud on Tuesday.

He has been accused of misrepresenting his qualifications by claiming that he held a Master’s Degree in Public Management and Development when he applied for employment at the Department of Health in KwaZulu-Natal in 2006.

His alleged fraud has cost the department “actual and potential” losses of more than R3 million, according to Hawks spokesperson Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo.

Mbangwa appeared in court after he was summoned to appear by the Hawks’ Serious Commercial Crime Investigation unit, said Mhlongo, after the investigation pertaining to his credentials was concluded recently.

Mbangwa is the former chief of staff in the police ministry under former police minister Nathi Nhleko. He also served as spokesperson to the former speaker of the provincial Legislature, Peggy Nkonyeni.

In 2002, Mbangwa was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment after he was found guilty of fraud. His conviction was related to an issue regarding his place of birth and his South African citizenship. He said at that time, that according to his identity document, he had been born in South Africa, when he had in fact been born in Zimbabwe.

Mbangwa admitted to having spent some time in Pretoria Central Prison for fraud. He was released in August 2003.

In 2011, The Mercury reported that Mbangwa had been asked to leave the KZN Health Department for failing to produce his qualifications.

Mbangwa, who had been employed by the department in 2006, was engaged at the level of a chief director with an R820 000 package.

Despite this, he later managed to secure a senior position as chief of staff in the police ministry.

According to his LinkedIn profile, he took up the post of chief of staff in March 2016, following his employment in the KZN Legislature and the provincial Health Department.

Listed as a general manager in the provincial Health Department from January 2005 to September 2010, Mbangwa’s LinkedIn profile listed him as a department spokesperson in charge of stakeholder management, events, policy formulation processing, financial management and bid evaluation committee member.

He described himself as an “experienced stakeholder and public relations management practitioner with a traceable history as a human rights activist”.

His professional profile on LinkedIn also stated that he had received his Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the Regent Business School, “with special focus in Public Sector Management” and his dissertation was on the effectiveness of e-government.

Mhlongo said the court had granted Mbangwa R8000 bail on Tuesday and his case had been postponed to April 1.

The provincial Health Department acknowledged The Mercury’s request for comment. However, no response was received at the time of publication.