Johannesburg – More than R756 million was paid to the company named in the Free State Vrede Dairy Farm scandal, with an alleged bribery payment scheme at the centre of lucrative contracts.
These allegations are contained in the charge sheet against Lenah Mohapi, a director at Superior Quality Trading, the company which received the R245m contract in 2014 to run agricultural projects in the Free State.
In the charge sheet, the state alleged Mohapi and her company, which also trades as Rekgonne Community Projects, funnelled R267 000 from December 2013 to December 2014 to Seipati Dhlamini, the former chief financial officer at the provincial Department of Agriculture.
Mohapi is said to have received more than R756m in four contracts between 2012 and 2016, including the R245m in June 2014, when she allegedly submitted fraudulent empowerment and bid documents.
The 2014 contracts were part of the provincial government's Ilima Projects, and included the Vrede Dairy Farm empowerment deal to uplift black farmers, but which was fraught with fraud, corruption and money laundering, the National Prosecuting Authority said on Tuesday.
The funds were released to alleged corrupt BEE-compliant companies to act as “implementing agents” in assisting more than 100 black farmers with additional assets to their small-holder farming, including with cattle.
Lerato Mngomezulu, Disebo Masiteng, Mokemane Ndumo, Mahlomola Mofokeng and Mbana Thabethe appeared on 58 counts of forgery, uttering, fraud, corruption, money laundering and contraventions of the Public Finance Management Act at the Bloemfontein regional court on Tuesday. They were released on bail of R10 000 each.
Thabethe is the departmental head, while the other four are senior officials, who were part of the 2014 bid evaluation committee.
The five joined the case against Mohapi and Dhlamini, who were arrested last month and are accused of channelling bribes and disguising them as medical fees, phone bills and donations for Mangaung's Macufe cultural and music festival, among others.
“(The bribes were for) agreeing to and attempting to influence procurement selection, sharing tender information relating to impending contractual work in the Department of Agriculture, and assisting to receive preferential or special Department of Agriculture services,” the charge sheet read.
So brazen was the scheme, the charge sheet added, that Mohapi's company Superior/Rekgonne would neither attend compulsory tender briefing sessions, nor submit certified copies, as stipulated in the tender advert, but would be shortlisted with other bidders.
All seven accused, who said they'd not plead guilty, return to court next month.