By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
Photo Credit: Alon Skuy.
African National Congress (ANC) secretary-general Ace Magashule might face more charges for his alleged role in the multi-million-rand asbestos audit contract scandal in Free State.
According to National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Sipho Ngwema, prosecuting authority has prepared itself to move the case to High Court for trial.
"When the case adjourned last time, we did indicate that there will be some changes on the indictment. We indicated that we wanted to add more charges with regard to the last accused, which is Magashule."
"We wanted to add more accused persons on the indictment – so, this is what is likely to happen when the matter resumes. We are ready to proceed to trial, so we think we are going to move with speed, so the matter goes to the high court and a trial takes place as soon as possible," Ngwema said.
The former Free State premier and his co-accused are set to appear again at the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court this morning.
Meanwhile three senior government officials were arrested by the Hawks' serious corruption investigation team in the early hours of 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.
Their appearance of the three coincides with the court appearance of 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.