Free State officials arrested ahead of Ace Magashule’s return to court for R255m asbestos case

Three government officials have been arrested ahead of ANC secretary general Ace Magashule’s return to court. File Picture

Three government officials have been arrested ahead of ANC secretary general Ace Magashule’s return to court. File Picture

Published Feb 18, 2021


Pretoria - Three senior government officials are set to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Friday after they were arrested by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation [Hawks] in connection with the multimillion rand asbestos contract scandal in the Free State.

“Three senior government officials were arrested by the Hawks’ serious corruption investigation team in the early hours of today [Thursday] in Bloemfontein in relation to the asbestos investigation facing charges of corruption,” said Hawks national spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale.

“The allegations relate to a contract that was awarded through a procurement process that was done in a fraudulent and corrupt manner.”

Mogale explained that the contract was meant to identify, and to remove asbestos roofs in the Free State province.

“During that period the department incurred unauthorised, irregular or fruitless and wasteful expenditure worth over R255 million,” she said.

The Friday appearance of the three coincides with the court appearance of African National Congress secretary-general Ace Magashule and seven others also charged in the R225 million asbestos eradication tender scandal.

Magashule, premier of the Free State at the time the asbestos contract was inked, appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court in November after a warrant for his arrest was issued.

The seven include Gauteng businessman Edwin Sodi, who owns Blackhead Consulting, that scored the contract, and former Free State human settlements director-general Nthimotse Mokhesi.

They face charges of corruption, fraud, theft, attempted theft, money laundering, contravention of the Public Finance Management Act as well as the contravention of various asbestos regulations promulgated in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has also indicted that seven companies, including Blackhead Consulting and Diamond Hill Trading, were implicated in the matter.

It claims fraud to the tune of R255m was committed when the human settlements department appointed a joint venture between Blackhead Consulting and Diamond Hill Trading to assess and remove asbestos structures.

"The two companies subcontracted two other separate companies, of which one allegedly did the work for only R21m; R230 million was paid to the initial contracting company and Sodi, director of the company, Blackhead Consulting, who is still attempting to secure in court the ’remaining’ payment of the rest of the money, which is R25m," the NPA said last year.

African News Agency (ANA)