05/06/2014. Five of Seven council employees suspected of defrauding billions of rands by the Tshwane Metro Police at Fleat Management Department of the City of Tshwane in Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Pretoria - Five Tshwane officials arrested for alleged corruption in June are claiming R10 million from the City of Tshwane and the Police Ministry for unlawful arrest and theft.

Bernard Mojapelo, Ludwick Senyatsi, Ronald Gethe, Percy Sekwane and Tebogo Legodi were arrested for allegedly swindling the city by submitting inflated invoices on behalf of service providers.

The Pretoria News could not locate a sixth official whose lawsuit is being handled separately.

All are employed in the fleet management department of the city and have since returned to work.

Mojapelo, director in the department, is claiming R4m, with the other four claiming the remaining R6m. They are represented by Mario Coetzee Attorneys.

Their spokeswoman, Virginia Kekana, said Mojapelo was forcefully removed from his office in front of his employees. It was embarrassing and damaging to his reputation. Kekana said he was intentionally paraded for photographers and journalists before being thrown into the back of a police van with his staff witnessing the unnecessary humiliation.

The six were arrested at their Boom Street offices by the detective branch of Tshwane Metro Police Department on June 5.

Leanda Perel, their attorney, said items in their possession were seized during the arrest without a warrant or probable cause.

The items included cellphones, laptops, IDs, driving licences, keys, appointment cards and money.

Perel said the items were not placed in evidence bags as is prescribed.

The attorney said the arrest took place in front of a full media contingent, subjecting her clients to intentional exposure. “They were detained at the Pretoria Central police station overnight in extremely cold conditions under the control of the SAPS,” Perel said.

“The next day they were transported to the Specialised Commercial Crime Court and detained in holding cells until about 2pm. We were preparing a comprehensive bail application when we were told our clients were free to go.”

Perel said the officials were severely traumatised and were receiving psychological treatment. They were only able to return to work more than a week after their arrest. No further action has been taken against them despite two months having lapsed since their arrest and detention, she said.

Kekana, who is also Mojapelo’s partner, described the arrest as barbaric, hostile and a character assassination on the officials.

She said they were found guilty by the City of Tshwane, which acted as judge and jury. “It is our submission that one shouldn’t detain proud South African citizens based on hearsay and hope to investigate later,” she said. “What was the purpose of the dramatic unlawful arrest? Was it racial, fight for positions or taking somebody out for personal advantage?”

Kekana, who broke down in tears, said most disappointing was hearing Tshwane praising the cowboy actions of metro police as a job well done. “They addressed the accused as thieves. (Mojapelo) was accused of being drunk. He was kicked and searched in the most undermining, racial and harassing manner. Prior to the arrest, auditors were appointed to conduct assets verification of the missing metro police vehicles that went missing without disposal records. This raises suspicion that the arrest was orchestrated to prevent the audit.”

Tshwane metro police spokesman Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said the matter would be defended in court.

Mahamba said the investigation was conducted properly. “When we arrested them we felt they had a case to answer. We have prima facie evidence against them that needs to be tested in the court.”

He added the investigation was continuing. “We have a record of all items they had in their possession. Some gave consent for these to be given to their families while others refused.

“All municipal items in their possession were booked in with the SAPS, together with personal belongings of those who didn’t want them to be given to families.”

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Pretoria News