Magashule has a case to answer in connection with R255 million allocated for a 2014 asbestos eradication project in the province
COURT records on Friday indicate that the 61-year-old man appearing before the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court in the Free State is Elias Sekgobelo Magashule.
The warrant of arrest issued by the Directorate for Priority Crime Prevention Investigation (the Hawks), says Magashule has a case to answer in connection with R255 million allocated for a 2014 asbestos eradication project in the province.
Seven suspects were arrested last month in connection with the controversial project, including politically-connected businessman Edwin Sodi whose statement says cars including a white Bentley, a red Ferrari sports car and a black Porsche Cayenne were seized by the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) Asset Forfeiture Unit.
Since Tuesday, when a Hawks spokesperson in the Free State confirmed a warrant of arrest had been issued for Magashule, to be served on Friday, many South Africans took to social media, questioning why the influential secretary general of the 108-year-old African National Congress (ANC), in power since 1994, had not been taken immediately into custody.
Magashule’s many supporters also did not waste time, declaring war on whoever touches their champion of radical economic transformation.
South Africans on either side of the divide have traded insults and counter-accusations, with many repeating Magashule’s famous reaction when the warrant of arrest was confirmed: “We are ready for anything. A luta continua; the struggling is continuing because the enemy has infiltrated the ANC”.
Perhaps one does not have to look beyond the secretary general’s moniker “Ace”; which characterises his meteoric rise, long stay and survival in South Africa’s cut-throat political arena, both within the ANC and the government.
On its green, yellow and gold website, the ANC explains that the Parys-born Magashule was an avid sportsman during his prime.
“Growing up, he was actively involved in drama, soccer and boxing. Comrade Magashule played midfield in his day and wore number 8. His prowess on the soccer field earned him the nickname “Ace” – a name that stuck to this day,” the ANC narrates.
After the merger of the ANC’s northern and southern regions in 1994, Magashule continued to serve in various leadership positions. He became the longest- serving ANC provincial chairperson, having been continuously elected to the post.
At the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference, Magashule was directly elected as an additional member to the powerful national executive committee.
In the Free State government, Magashule was at the helm of the province, as premier, from 2009 to 2017.
Hawks spokeswoman in the Free State, Lynda Steyn, told Independent Media this week the arrest warrant against Magashule stemmed from his alleged failure to conduct oversight and report corrupt dealing in 2014 when the province, during his tenure as premier, issued a R255 million tender to audit all RDP (subsidised) houses with deadly asbestos roofing.
The tender was later marred by allegations that it illegally benefited businessman Sodi and former human settlements director-general Thabane Zulu, who are out on bail in the same matter.
The asbestos contract came up prominently at the ongoing state capture commission of inquiry chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Sodi’s company Blackhead Consulting and its joint-venture partner Diamond Hill, owned by now deceased businessman Ignatious “Igo” Mpambani, were awarded the lucrative contract in 2014.
Mpambani was shot dead while driving his Bentley in Johannesburg’s wealthy Sandton area in 2017.
In evidence presented at the Zondo 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 Moroadi Cholota faced questions at the inquiry over requests for payments that she made to Mpambani on behalf of Magashule.
Last December, Cholota told the state capture commission that the thousands of rand she requested from Mpambani, ranging from R250 000 to R500 000, were on behalf of poor students.
The issue of payment requests was first brought up in the testimony of former Free State member of the executive council Mxolisi Dukwana.
Dukwana told the commission that the Free State department of human settlements had awarded the controversial asbestos audit contract, but the money meant for the project was used to fund and assist close associates of Magashule.
He provided emails showing how assistants to Magashule communicated with Mpambani, requesting funds to be paid to certain accounts. Dukwana said this was done by Magashule’s staffers, Ipeleng Morake and Cholota at his behest.
When news of his imminent arrest was finally confirmed by the Hawks this week, a seemingly unfazed Magashule was leading the ruling party’s campaign in Soweto ahead of by-elections across the country.
Asked about the arrest, he said he was not bothered as he had known the day would finally come.
“If it happens, it will happen, so I’m not worried at all,” he told