Bloemfontein brought briefly to a standstill as ANC bigwigs turn out to support Ace Magashule
Bloemfontein - Hundreds of supporters of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule' brought Bloemfontein to a standstill in violation of Covid-19 regulations during his appearance in the local magistrate's court to face multiple charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering.
Magashule, 10 other senior government officials and business people and five companies appeared before magistrate Mxolisi Saliwa to face counts of fraud, corruption, money laundering and contravening the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (Precca).
Several ANC leaders, including former Cabinet ministers Bathabile Dlamini, Des van Rooyen, Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina, members of the governing party's powerful national executive committee Tony Yengeni and Dakota Legoete, acting Mpumalanga provincial secretary Lindiwe Ntshalintshali and controversial former ANC Youth League deputy president Andile Lungisa, also attended Magashule's court appearance, although a number of them were barred from entering the courtroom due to strict Covid-19 protocols.
Legoete warned the government against degenerating into a dictatorship in the name of Covid-19.
Magashule's supporters were bused in from all over the country, according to Lungisa.
However, any hopes of a massive rally were dashed as soon as the court adjourned the matter to August 11, when a pre-trial conference will be held, after the case was transferred to the Free State High Court.
Lungisa told the gathered crowd that there were regulations guiding every South African.
"This gathering is not allowed anywhere in terms of the regulations," he said.
The former Nelson Mandela Bay Metro councillor said Magashule had received legal advice that it would be difficult for him to address his supporters and that they did not want any additional charges against him as a result of the illegal gathering.
Magashule did briefly parade down Charles Street in Bloemfontein, greeting his supporters who were chanting "Ace", while he appeared through the sunroof of his black BMW X5, waving and clenching his fist.
Early on Friday, he said he was concerned that the case kept being postponed when he wanted to have his day in court.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) provided details of the charges Magashule is facing, which stem from his allegely using his influence when he Free State premier to secure more than R1.1 million in payments from late businessman Igo Mpambani, who was murdered in 2017.
The NPA on Friday presented its charge sheet, which shows that Magashule instructed Mpambani and his company, Diamond Hill Trading 71, to make the payments, totalling just over R1.1million, between June 2015 and January 2016.
Prosecutors state that Magashule should be found guilty of corruption for breaching Precca for facilitating the payment of R53 550 towards the settlement of tuition fees for former SA Revenue Service chief officer: legal counsel and one-time acting judge Refiloe Mokoena’s daughter, in August 2015.
Evidence presented at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture shows that Mokoena sent an e-mail to Moroadi Cholota, Magashule’s personal assistant, when he was still premier, as a reminder that she needed $24 298 (about R375 000 at today’s exchange rate) to settle her daughter’s fees.
In June 2015, Magashule also corruptly accepted the payment of R470 000 on his request to M-TAG Systems for the acquisition of 200 electronic tablets by Mpambani and/or his company.
The NPA states that the payment amounts to abuse of a position of authority, breach of trust and/or violation of his legal duty or a set of rules.
Mpambani and Diamond Hill Trading 71 also paid R300 000 to Griffin Edge for the acquisition of 200 electronic tablets, again at Magashule’s request.
Other payments made by Mpambani or his company allegedly at Magashule's insistence include R250 000 to Astra Travel, towards travel expenses of a delegation to Cuba, and R30 000 to an individual identified as SWC Nkate by prosecutors.
All the payments were not legally due, according to the charge sheet.