Former Free State premier Ace Magahsule's assistant Moroadi Cholota. Screengrab.

Johannesburg - The former personal assistant of former Free State premier Ace Magashule says the thousands of rands requested from businessman Ignatius Mpambani were for students.

Moroadi Cholota, who worked for Magashule from 2013, appeared at the Zondo commission on Friday. 

She faced questions regarding emails she sent to Mpambani requesting money. The payment requests differed with some ranging from R250 000 to R500 000.

The issue of payment requests was first brought up in the testimony of former Free State MEC Mxolisi Dukwana. 

Dukwana told the commission the Free State department of human settlements had in 2014 awarded a controversial contract for the auditing of houses that were built with asbestos in the province. The contract was awarded to Diamond Hill, a company owned by businessman Ignatius Mpambani, and Blackhead Consulting, as a joint venture.

The price tag for the cost of the project was set at R255 million for assessing 300 000 houses. Dukwana said there were several issues with the contract and that it’s awarding to the two companies was done without tender processes being followed.

Dukwana said what was more concerning was how the funds for the project were being used to fund and assist close associates of now ANC secretary-general Magashule.

The former MEC provided emails which show how assistants to Magashule would communicate with Mpambani at various moments requesting funds to be paid to certain accounts. Dukwana insisted that this was done by Magashule’s staffers, Ipeleng Morake and Moroadi Cholota, on his behest.

On Friday, Cholota explained the emails she sent and said most of the requests were initiated by her and were for students. She said it was above board and common for the premier's office to receive all sorts of requests for funding. She explained that these were mostly for poor students.

"We receive an email from various people saying that they need flights and accommodation requests and they write to the office of the premier to assist. In most cases, it would be students or entertainers or athletes requesting for funding." People would come and we refer them to the relevant departments. They'd come to the office of the premier and say they have exhausted all avenues," Cholota explained.

Cholota said Mpambani was not the only businessman who was requested to assist with funding. When asked by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo about one payment request of R500 000 to Mpambani, she said the businessman was the one who had promised the payment. She alleged that Mpambani had promised students in Cuba that he would pay for laptops.

"I believe that they met with Mr Mpambani in Cuba and he committed to buying the students laptops. And she requested that I assist with getting into contact with Mr Mpambani. A lesser quote was obtained. They bought 200 laptops at a cost of R300 000. He had committed," she said.

Cholota's testimony did not implicate Magashule as Dukwana's had.

Mpambani was shot dead in Sandton in 2017.

IOL