Johannesburg - For the first time since former president Thabo Mbeki’s administration where then deputy president Jacob Zuma was charged with corruption, a member of the ANC’s Top 6 was on Tuesday charged with corruption and failure to exercise oversight.
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, will be in the dock of the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Friday to face fraud and corruption charges after the Hawks issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday.
Magashule is expected to hand himself over to the Hawks on Friday and appear in court on the same day.
On October 7, The Star editor Sifiso Mahlangu broke the story of a warrant for Magashule.
Then Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi, who has resigned, denied the existence of the warrant. However, in an about-turn on Tuesday, the Hawks confirmed that there was a warrant out on Magashule.
Hawks spokesperson in the Free State Lynda Steyn told Independent Media that the arrest warrant stemmed from his alleged failure to conduct oversight and report corrupt dealing in 2014 when the province, during his time as premier (between 2009 and 2017), issued a R255-million tender to audit all RDP houses with deadly asbestos roofing.
The tender was later marred by allegations that it illegally benefited Edwin Sodi (businessman) and Thabane Zulu (former Human Settlements director-general) who are out on bail for the same case.
On Tuesday night, Magashule told The Star he was ready for war.
“They must bring it on. This is politics. I know how it works. They can bring it on,” he said.
“Why am I being charged with oversight? Why is the auditor-general not being charged with oversight? Was I the only oversight in the Free State? Are the Hawks only investigating the Free State? They will have to show me what I, Magashule, have done.”
Sodi and a number of individuals, including senior government officials were arrested and charged with fraud and corruption early last month in relation to the R250m contract which was awarded to his company through an allegedly illegal unsolicited bid, before millions of rand were channelled to political heavyweights and top officials who were involved in the contract.
Sodi and his co-accused were released on bail and had their assets seized by the Hawks.
The R255 million Free State asbestos contract was reported on prominently at the Zondo commission.
Sodi's company Blackhead Consulting and its joint-venture partner Diamond Hill, owned by now deceased businessman Ignatious Mpambani, were awarded the contract in 2014.
In evidence presented at the commission, it was revealed that the contract was subcontracted twice and the final company which performed the asbestos audit did so for just over R20 million.
Magashule was implicated in the deal and his former personal assistant faced questions at the inquiry over requests for payments that she made to Mpambani on behalf of Magashule.
Meanwhile, the ANC’s national spokesperson, Pule Mabe, said Magashule had told them that he was in touch with his legal team in order to respond to the matter.
He then said Magashule, had on several occasions, told the public that he was a law-abiding citizen and was going to co-operate with law enforcement agencies.
“The ANC will be monitoring these developments closely and will accordingly communicate on any update should the need arise,” Mabe said.
Ekurhuleni Mayor Mzwandile Masina came to Magashule’s defence on Tuesday, saying: “You can arrest Magashule for all his sins but not his ideas of radical economic transformation. We fear nothing. We have been on this road at some point and we fear nothing.
“The abuse of state organs to further political ends have short legs. We will meet at the festival. Okay.”
Masina was making reference to Zuma’s arrest in 2007 where it is believed that Mbeki used state resources to defeat his political opponents in order to get a third term.
Another of Magashule’s support bases, the MKMVA (Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association) defended him. In a statement, the association said it was utterly dismayed by the warrant of arrest.
“This is an extremely serious development for both the ANC and our whole South African community… As MKMVA, we warned many times against the selective use of corruption charges and the law enforcement agencies as tools for factional targeting and political infighting causes disunity in the African National Congress… and overall in our country.
“It is also fundamentally disrespectful of the Constitution and the rule of law in general,” the association said.
Outside the ruling party, the DA hailed the latest development, saying the chickens were finally coming home to roost for Magashule.
"After years of fighting for justice for the people of the Free State, the DA is delighted to hear of the warrant of arrest that was today issued for ANC Secretary-General, Ace Magashule, in connection to the R255 million asbestos audit contract, said DA leader John Steenhuisen.
"It was the DA’s Member of the Free State Provincial Legislature, Leona Kleynhans, who has pursued this case relentlessly since 2015, eventually culminating in the laying of charges against Magashule in May this year, which has ensured that Magashule finally be brought to book," he said.
The National Prosecuting Authority said Magashule’s court appearance on Friday would be “for the purposes of the relevant application processes”, meaning that it would be for a bail application.