The State has asked the Gauteng High Court to convict a former Sars deputy commissioner on alleged tender fraud involving more than R11 million. File picture
Pretoria – The State has asked the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to convict several accused, including former SA Revenue Services (Sars) deputy commissioner Dr Mandisa Mokwena on alleged tender fraud involving more than R11 million.

Mokwena, a former business partner of President Jacob Zuma’s wife Thobeka Zuma, and her eight co-accused had pleaded not guilty to more than 50 charges, including fraud and money laundering.

Mokwena resigned from Sars in December 2009 after disciplinary proceedings were instituted against her.

Mokwena is accused of – between September 2007 up to the end of July 2009 – in her capacity as general manager of the Sars risk management division, having acted in a “corrupt manner”.

This was allegedly done by ensuring that training and research tenders were awarded to her former supervisor at Unisa, his wife and their companies.

This, it was said, was done in return for assistance with her doctoral studies at the University of Venda.

The indictment stated that Mokwena’s co-accused were all colleagues, associates friends or academic acquaintances of her.

They are Oludele Akinloye Akinboade, who was her external examiner, and who was also the director of the school of economics at Unisa; his wife Ashuma; another former Unisa employee Emile Djoumessi, who has meanwhile fled and for whom a warrant of arrest has been issued; businesswoman Boitumelo Boshego; Maria Phake, a former secretary at Unisa; and Leslie Moonsamy, a former cost centre manager at Sars.

Two former accused, Maria Makofane, a former Unisa professor; and, Reneile Malati, Mokwena’s former personal assistant; were acquitted after the State had closed its case earlier.

The lengthy trial, which started more than two years ago, involved about R11million in tender irregularities. All the accused pleaded not guilty.

The State called 43 witnesses over the past two years and most of the accused testified in their own defence.

It is claimed that the accused registered companies and close corporations allegedly used to fraudulently secure contracts for training and research from the Sars risk management division.

It is claimed that the Sars procurement process was manipulated for the accused to secure the contracts.

Red flags went up in 2009 regarding a suspicious transaction report from one of the banks regarding two payments of large sums of money relating to a company called Ecko Research.

It was established that the director of the company was Phake, a secretary working at Unisa.

Theresa Kannemeyer, of the Sars anti-corruption unit, investigated the matter and concluded that Mokwena had a case to answer.

This led to Mokwena's suspension and subsequent disciplinary proceedings, which never took place as she resigned beforehand.

Mokwena, throughout the trial, insisted she was innocent and said she knew nothing about the alleged fraudulent deals she was being accused of.

She said she had three personal assistants while working at Sars and she was mostly out of the office.

Her assistants handled her e-mails on her behalf and she was never made aware of any suspicious deals, she said.

The prosecution, however, said she must have been aware of what was happening.

Judge Sulet Potterill was told that Mokwena was the mastermind from the Sars side and that she manipulated and controlled the people around her to ensure that the “fraudulent” contracts were honoured.

It was further argued that Akinboade and his wife were the masterminds at Unisa, as they manipulated contracts from that side.

Judge Potterill indicated that she would deliver her lengthy judgment sometime towards the end of July.

Pretoria News