In light of recent arrests related to corruption and state capture, in this developing story, we’ll be keeping tabs on the corruption-related arrests in both the public and private sector, how the NPA does its work, and how the Hawks are handling the drive to root out corruption.
Several high profile arrests, including people allegedly involved in state capture, have taken place over the last few weeks, and the NPA seems to be on a roll. And it’s taking a bunch of bad guys down with it. This is what we like to see.
Before we jump ahead, let’s remind you who the NPA is and what it does
The NPA is an organ of state, part of the state but independent from government, tasked with making sure that criminals are prosecuted. It’s quite an important structure in the strengthening of South Africa’s democracy. The NPA’s had more than a few rough years with some questionable leaders, so it has lost some credibility. By the time Cyril Ramaphosa became president in 2017, it was painfully apparent that something had to change if our criminal justice system was going to work properly.
Enter one Advocate Shamila Batohi, who was appointed as the head of the NPA less than two years ago, to restore confidence and really crack the whip. It took some time til we saw her in action, but now that we’ve seen arrests in high profile corruption matters, we can almost guarantee that this is ONLY the beginning.
And we’re here to keep receipts.
January 21 2021 update
You strike a woman, you strike a rock, as the saying goes. The NPA, already headed by the excellent Advocate Shamila Batohi, rocks even more now that it’s added three more incredible prosecutors to its already formidable senior leadership. Batohi, as we’ve reported before, made huge strides in the fight against corruption last year.
Advocate Hermione Cronje heads the NPA’s special investigative directorate which looks specifically at corruption, and her team is behind some of the biggest cases on the books right now. Three new brilliant women have been appointed:
- Adv Priya Biseswar as special director of the Asset Forfeiture Unit;
- Adv Bonnie Currie-Gamwo as special director of public prosecutions responsible for sexual offences and community affairs; and
- Adv Lebogang Dineo Baloyi as special director of public prosecutions responsible for specialised commercial crime
If their impressive CVs are anything to go by, criminals in SA are going to need some seriously thick gloves.
December 9 2020 update:
Former President Jacob Zuma is one busy man: he’s been dodging trials and questioning left, right and centre. This time it’s for his controversial corruption trial which relates to allegations that he took a bribe from French arms manufacturer Thales, during the controversial 1999 arms deal. The trial has been postponed to 23 February 2023. It took the former president only 7 minutes to postpone his trial, The South African reported. Zuma was first questioned about this dubious deal back in 2005 and he’s been able to deny, dodge and evade the courts several times.
December 7 2020 update:
Remember the whole controversial SARS rogue unit and the alleged link to former finance minister and now public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan? The same thing that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane decided to investigate? Well, the courts have FINALLY put it to bed, rubbishing her entire investigation it. Effectively saying the SARS rogue unit was… nothing. In her report, Mkhwebane alleged that this so-called unit was set up by SARS to spy on politicians and abused its power. Three judges ruled Mkhwebane’s conclusions were ‘the product of a wholly irrational process, bereft of any sound legal or factual basis’, the Daily Maverick reported. Gordhan was SARS commissioner in 2007, and in 2014, the narrative of this ‘rogue unit’ exploded when the Sunday Times decided to report on it. It’s a long affair and finally, we can say, it’s over. But it’s also just another blow to the already tainted Public Protector.
December 2 2020 update:
South Africa’s state-power utility, Eskom is facing up to R5 million in fines for providing authorities with (allegedly) blatantly false and misleading information about its toxic air pollution at the Kendal coal-fired power station. The Mail and Guardian is reporting that Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy notified Eskom of the decision by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to pursue criminal prosecution against the power utility. This is the first time the NPA has decided to launch a criminal investigation to pursue a prosecution against Eskom, over its breach of air quality legislation. Eskom will appear before the eMalahleni regional court on four counts of environmental transgressions on January 28 2021.
December 1 update:
Since the start of the matric examinations on 5 November, three exam papers have been leaked. First, it was the Mathematics paper 2, one week later the Physical Science paper was leaked, and on Sunday, news broke that a Life Sciences paper was also leaked. The Hawks are investigating the leaks and now, one arrest has been made: Themba Daniel Shikwambana, 31, was arrested on Wednesday and appeared in court on Monday for his involvement in the mathematics paper 2 leak. According to the Mail and Guardian, Shikwambana works for a Johannesburg-based company that is contracted by the department of basic education to print exam papers for the class of 2020. He was granted bail and will return in court in January.
November 27 update:
One month after getting arrested on charges of corruption, fraud and theft, ANC MP and former state security minister Bongani Bongo appeared (virtually) before the Western Cape High Court this morning for a pre-trial conference. The NPA tweeted today that Bongo’s case, which relates to a R124 million worth of land deals in Mpumalanga, has been postponed to February 15 to 26 for plea and trial. Bongo’s bail has also been extended. This was the second time Bongo was arrested. Last year, in a completely separate case, he was charged for allegedly trying to bribe a member of the Eskom inquiry when he was state security minister in 2017. He was released on R5 000 bail.
November 23 update:
Former president Jacob Zuma has landed himself in a fresh pile of poop after playing cat and mouse with the State Capture Commission of Inquiry. Following Zuma’s walk-out stunt from the commission on November 19 (see below), deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo (also the chair of the commission) filed a criminal complaint against Zuma. That’s because Zuma was at the commission under a legal summons. In leaving the commission, he effectively committed a crime. Zondo also said he will issue a fresh summons against the former president. Zondo said Zuma walking out of the inquiry was a ‘serious matter’ and it will have a ‘significant’ impact on the commission’s work, according to News24. Zondo also said he will be approaching the Constitutional Court for an order directing Zuma to appear before the commission and actually ANSWER questions.
November 22 update:
July 19 2021 has been marked as the day that a special 39-day trial will finally commence over the R1 billion civil lawsuit in which deputy president David Mabuza and 24 others are involved in. Mabuza and co. will be trialed for their involvement in an alleged land scam in Mpumalanga. You may not remember, but in 2005 whistle-blower Fred Daniel blew the lid on the alleged scam: officials were allegedly inflating the price of land in Mpumalanga. He discovered this when he was scouting for land to open up a nature reserve. Thereafter, Daniel claimed he faced intimidation, death threats and violence allegedly instigated by then MEC for land and agriculture David Mabuza. City Press is reporting that this was allegedly to drive Daniel out of business and to collapse his nature reserve. In 2010, Daniel sued various Mpumalanga government entities and Mabuza, who was still the MEC, for “damages suffered due to corruption-related harassment”. Mabuza denied allegations of corruption, but the case will finally be heard after years of delays.
November 19 update:
Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo will be staying put as chairperson of the State Capture Commission of Inquiry even after former President Jacob Zuma filed an application asking him to step down. Zuma accused Zondo of being biased because of their history (see below). In response, Zondo said Zuma had waited nearly three years since the commission was established to raise his concerns, and said that he and Zuma were never friends. He also said that the former president was only a provincial MEC when the two briefly knew each other, meaning there was no way Zuma could have had any influence over Zondo’s career. Then there’s the fact the commission tried repeatedly to get Zuma to come and state his case. Zuma appeared once with a rambling story of conspiracies, rather than answering the allegations against him, as he was supposed to do, and he refused to come back. Shortly after Zondo’s statement, Zuma left…without permission. This act of defiance could land Zuma in even bigger trouble because it goes against the summons that Zondo issued against him. Things are heating up.
November 16 update:
Former president Jacob Zuma has asked the chairperson of the State Capture Commission of Inquiry, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, to step down from his position. In an application that will be heard on Monday, November 16, Zuma argues that Zondo is not impartial because he and Zuma have a prior relationship. Zuma said that 25 years ago, Zondo had a child with Zuma’s sister-in-law, according to News24. On Monday, Zondo said he had known Zuma since the nineties because of his interest in the ANC, but said the two had no personal relationship and said this had no bearing on his impartiality.
Watch the live proceedings via News24’s live feed here:
November 13 update:
Ace Magashule, the ANC’s secretary-general handed himself over to the Hawks in Bloemfontein on Friday ahead of his first court appearance on the same day at the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court. Magashule will be appearing on corruption charges. He was served with a warrant of arrest on Tuesday for alleged corruption related to a R255 million asbestos tender awarded to businessman Edwin Sodi in 2014. Magashule is one of seven others arrested for the same case.
November 9 update:
The Special Investigating Unit is to investigate allegations of maladministration, fraud and corruption at the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), Daily Maverick reports. This follows several exposes by grassroots reporting outfit Groundup, into alleged irregularities at the NLC. Allegedly, funds which are supposed to be used to help non-profit and public benefit organisations have been misappropriated or dished out to dodgy, sometimes non-existent organisations. The Hawks are also investigating the NLC.
November 4 update:
Former South African Airways board chairperson Dudu Myeni has appeared at the State Capture Commission of Inquiry, as that body tries to get to the bottom of the rot at the state owned airline. But Myeni has reportedly refused to answer many questions, citing her supposed right not to incriminate herself. According to the Daily Maverick, Myeni is implicated in allegedly dodgy black empowerment deals and then pushing out those in the organisation who disagreed with her decisions. She’s also key to why the airline’s finances are so dire, allegedly.
October 27 update:
Former state security minister and ANC MP Bongani Bongo has been arrested on charges of corruption, fraud and theft. The former minister was arrested alongside other suspects for the same charges. It is still unclear what the charges relate to. The former minister will appear in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Wednesday along with the other suspects who the NPA have not yet named.
October 20 update:
The Hawks are expected to make even more arrests related to Covid-19 corruption this week, reports News24. Hawks head Godfrey Lebeya reportedly told Parliament this week that the elite crime fighting unit within the police is investigating over 80 000 illegal payments related to Covid-19 corruption.
He said the Hawks were making excellent progress, and that their investigations were underway in all provinces, with help from other law enforcement agencies.
October 19 update:
The Zondo commission of inquiry has Jacob Zuma and his former allies in its sights, reports the Sunday Times. Zuma, Julius Malema, and even police minister Bheki Cele are reportedly under scrutiny by the commission’s investigators, who have subpoenaed their bank records. The banks have reportedly cooperated, although Zuma, through his lawyers, says he does not know anything about this.
Zuma previously said the commission is political, and is intended to achieve political ends. Zondo has issued a summons to force Zuma to appear at the commission, as the former president has refused to do so.
October 14 update:
Latest: Angelo Agrizzi, the former COO of Bosasa was denied bail today at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court because the State believes he’s a flight risk. The presiding magistrate Philip Venter said he was satisfied with the State’s case that Agrizzi had the financial means to set up and sustain a comfortable lifestyle outside the country’s borders.
Former ANC MP Vincent Smith and former Bosasa boss Angelo Agrizzi are due back in court. Smith is accused of accepting bribes from Agrizzi in exchange for stopping Parliament’s committee on correctional services from probing dodgy government tenders that Bosasa received. Smith has denied that Agrizzi’s so-called gifts to him were bribes.
The country’s second most senior cop, Deputy National Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Bonang Mgwenya, has been arrested for corruption. Mgwenya appeared in court this week with 14 others including former national commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane, on charges including fraud and money laundering.
They are accused of tender corruption.
October 12 update:
The cooperation of various bodies has been key to the latest round of arrests. The Mail & Guardian reports that Hawks officers already working on some cases related to state capture were seconded to the Investigative Directorate (ID) within the NPA, which is specifically tasked with investigating state capture. The ID has reportedly worked closely with the State Capture Commission of Inquiry, too.
Read the paper’s full behind-the-scenes analysis of the state capture arrests here.
According to the Mail & Guardian:
The VBS case has been postponed to January 2021. Seven people allegedly involved in the looting of the bank appeared in court on last week, SowetanLive reported. More arrests are reportedly expected. According to the publication, the people who appeared include:
- Former VBS chairperson Tshifhiwa Calvin Matodzi
- Former CEO Andile Ramavhunga
- Former treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane
- Former non-executive board members Ernest Nesane and Paul Magula
- The former CFO of the SA Police Service Phalaphala Avhashoni Ramikosi
- Former KPMG engagement partner Sipho Malaba.
October 8 update:
In the past two weeks three really high profile arrests of individuals allegedly involved in so-called state capture, and another individual pleading guilty for financial crimes in the VBS Mutual Bank looting scandal.
Philip Truter was the Chief Financial Officer of VBS Mutual Bank. On Wednesday, October 9, he pleaded guilty to financial crimes, including corruption, money laundering, fraud, theft and racketeering at the bank. In a word: looting. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail, three of which have been suspended after he negotiated and made a deal with the cops. He will effectively spend 7 years in jail for his crimes.
What did he do?
Philip Truter was one of the executives who allegedly facilitated and helped to cover up the theft of about R2 billion from the bank. Truter confessed that “he was a participant in the manipulation of VBS’s banking systems and the fraudulent misrepresentations contained in its 2017 annual financial statements”, according to the Business Day. A report commissioned by the Reserve Bank called the “Great Bank Heist”, published about three years ago, details how the bank, and the monies of pensioners who invested there, were stolen just to fatten the wallets of the big boys – not just the executives, but the red berets too, allegedly. (That would be the EFF. They have denied getting stolen VBS funds.)
Here’s why Truter’s arrest is SO significant in the bigger scheme of things:
A) it means the NPA is making serious headway in uncovering the financial crimes. It’s been hamstrung by a lack of forensic skills for some time, so this means that it might be turning a corner.
B) it opens the doors to more arrests. On Thursday, Truter’s co-accused: former VBS chair Tshifhiwa Calvin Matodzi, CEO Andile Ramavhunga, former treasurer Phophi Mukhodobwane, former nonexecutive board members Ernest Nesane and Paul Magula, the former CFO of the SA Police Service, Phalaphala Avhashoni Ramikosi, and former KPMG engagement partner Sipho Malaba, appeared in court. The case has however been postponed to 26 January 2021 to allow the state more time to make additional charges and arrests, Daily Maverick reported.
Truter was able to strike a deal with the courts, where he said he WILL drop all the details on who did what to cause the downfall of VBS Mutual Bank. Read what amaBhugane had to say about it here. (If we were involved, we’d be pretty scared).
Next, three (of maaaaany) guys involved in the state capture project
(To read our full explainer on these arrests, click here)
Briefly, this is who they were.
1. Thoshan Panday
This 49 year old Kwa-Zulu Natal businessman and some police officers were arrested on Friday, October 3 for allegedly conspiring to rig a tender he received to provide accommodation to police officers during the 2010 Soccer World Cup. He promised the corrupt cops some pretty neat ‘gratifications’, including cash, luxury accommodation at fancy hotels, money used to purchase land, flights, and cars, to swing the tender his way.
Panday broke several laws, but it was kept under wraps thanks to his relationship with the police and number 1 A.K.A Prez. Jacob Zuma. He evaded any kind of legal recourse. But, you know what they say, you can run but you can’t hide.
Panday appeared alongside the police officers allegedly involved on October 5. He was released on R100 000 bail. (Crime is really not worth it, man).
2. Vincent Smith
Vincent Smith was supposedly ‘an honest man’ – a senior member of parliament with a solid reputation for rigourous law-making, but he let this title slip away after getting involved in some corrupt dealings alongside Bosasa’s Angelo Agrizzi. Smith allegedly received ‘gratifications’ (a fancy word for bribes), from Agrizzi to influence his position and benefit Bosasa (now known as African Global Operation).
Bosasa allegedly paid Smith R40 000 a month to stop probing the controversial contracts in Parliament, and his daughter’s tuition was allegedly paid for by the firm. Smith didn’t think of the payment as a bribe but as a personal loan from Agrizzi for his daughter’s tuition (with friends like these…) Smith turned himself in and appeared in court on October 1. He believes the evidence before the court will vindicate him.
3. Edwin Sodi
Picture this: a huge driveway lined with Ferraris, Bentleys and other fast cars, against a background of huge, glass windows, with a water feature that doubles up as a pool and an enormous house so big, it might be touching the sky… okay, that last bit is a bit dramatic, but you get the picture. This was the lifestyle of Bloemfontein businessman Edwin Sodi – until this week when the assets were seized by the state, Daily Maverick reported.
He was allegedly at the helm of a business venture, which got paid up to R230 million to do an audit of houses that still had asbestos roofs in the Free State. But the work he did only amounted to about R21 million. And the rest of the money? Well…
Sodi told the state capture commission of inquiry that he gave money to ANC officials and senior government people, but there was nothing criminal about these so-called donations.
This is a developing story…
By Aarti Bhana and Sarah Evans
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