Everything you need to know about Ace Magashule’s arrest and court appearance
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule was granted bail of R200,000 on Friday in the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court after he was arrested on 21 charges of fraud and corruption, alternatively theft and money laundering, stemming from the Free State asbestos scandal.
The National Prosecuting Authority's indictment of Magashule details a handful of gratifications he allegedly accepted or condoned on behalf of others from businessman Ignatius Mpambani, the murdered boss of Diamond Hill Trading.
These payments total more than R1.1 million and include R53,550 paid to Refiloe Mokoena, the axed former head of legal at the South African Revenue Service, towards the tuition fees of her daughter and R250,000 towards the travel fees of a delegation to Cuba.
The state also alleges that in June 2015 Magashule accepted payment of R470,000, paid on his request to a company called M–TAG Systems for the purchase of 200 electronic tablets from Mpambani. In two other transactions, another R300,000 was spent on tablets.
Magashule faces several charges of contravening the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act and eight counts of fraud. The latter sees him accused of giving the false appearance that a contract between the Free State Department of Human Settlements and a joint venture between Diamond Hill and Edwin Sodi's Blackhead Consulting was lawful and that he had no personal financial interest in the deal.
The venture was granted a R255,000 contract to audit and remove hazardous asbestos from structures in the Free State, despite having no expertise in the field, and is alleged to have channelled most of the money to the politically connected.
No asbestos removal was ever done, and the state has frozen assets worth about R300,000, including Sodi’s mansion and luxury cars, in a bid to recover the lost contract value plus interest.
Magashule, 61, counts as accused number 13 in the asbestos case and is by far the most senior politician arrested to date in connection with the so-called state capture scandal that saw billions in public funds lost in rent-seeking ventures.
State prosecutor Johan de Nysschen on Friday told the court that Magashule's former personal secretary Moroadi Cholota had agreed to turn state witness.
Cholota is believed to have knowledge of transactions conducted at his behest and her testimony could bolster the state's chances of securing convictions in the complex corruption case.
One of Magashule's bail conditions is that he may not have contact with her.
The National Prosecuting Authority said it now expected "at least three more suspects" to be arrested and added to the charge sheet, but that all investigations against Magashule and the current other 12 accused had been completed.
While both supporters and detractors of the former premier protested in the streets of Mangaung in a reflection of how factions have riven the ANC, Magashule appeared composed in a blue jacket and open-necked shirt.
His senior counsel, Laurance Hodes, told the court that Magashule only had assets of around R700,000 and could not afford the bail amount of a quarter of a million rand demanded by the state.
Magashule has so far refused to step aside as secretary-general of the ruling party and this is expected to be the subject of wrangling in weeks to come.
He is due back in court on February 19 next year along with the other asbestos accused. The case is expected to be transferred to the high court on that date.