African National Congress (ANC) Northern Cape chairperson John Block was among eight people arrested by The Hawks on Thursday for alleged tender fraud related to the purchase of water purifiers and oxygen generators for the Kimberly Hospital.
The eight, believed to include a senior Kimberley Hospital manager, were implicated in a R200-million corruption case that had already seen eight people arrested in KwaZulu-Natal, provincial police spokeswoman Captain Cherelle Ehlers said.
Block’s home was raided by The Hawks a year ago and several documents were seized. He is also provincial minister of the Northern Cape’s finance, economic development and tourism portfolios.
The investigation was linked to the awarding of multi-million rand contracts to Intaka, a Cape Town company in which Block holds a directorship with Kimberley businessman Gaston Savoi.
Savoi’s company allegedly sold equipment to the two provinces’ health departments at inflated prices and allegedly paid commissions worth millions to the officials involved, and it was alleged that no proper tender procedures were followed.
The KwaZulu-Natal health department had spent more than R44-million on water purification plants found to be empty and in disrepair.
The Northern Cape health department had paid more than R112-million for water purification plants and oxygen generators from Intaka.
ANC professes support for Block
The Northern Cape ANC has in the meantime stated its belief in Block’s innocence and said the party would be vindicated again.
ANC provincial secretary Zamani Saul said that when the allegations surfaced for the first time the party leaders took it upon themselves to investigate the issues and went as far as getting a legal opinion on the outcomes of the findings.
“Based on that, the ANC remains overtly convinced that these charges have no basis and would not stick,” he said in a statement.
Saul said Block was working for the company and every cent which was paid to him, he was fully entitled to and there were no underhand or unsavoury activities that the ANC chairperson was involved in.
He said there were “filthy political agendas at play” with malicious motives behind Block’s arrest.
Zweli Mkhize was meant to testify in ‘commissions’ case
Earlier this year The Hawks said KwaZulu-Natal premier Zweli Mkhize was a potential witness in the case as he had previously been the political head of the province’s health department.
Indications were that officials in the Northern Cape had received more than R13-million in “commissions”.
The Asset Forfeiture Unit and The Hawks in August arrested eight people, including KwaZulu-Natal health department head Dr Busi Nyembezi, the department’s former procurement officer Mdu Ntshangase, and chief financial officer Sipho Buthelezi, as well as Savoi, a Uruguayan national, in connection with the alleged fraud.
Among the assets seized during the KwaZulu-Natal arrests were a Learjet, a Maserati, a Ferrari and the Shamwari Game Lodge in the Eastern Cape.
The accused face charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and charges under the Public Finance Management Act.
The eight arrested in the Northern Cape on Thursday were expected to face similar charges when they appeared in court on Thursday afternoon.
Block retains positions, no leave
Saul said Block would retain his positions as chairperson and provincial minister for finance, economic development and tourism despite the latest developments, as he remained innocent until proven otherwise by due processes of the law.
“There will not be any sabbatical or shock leave for him,” said Saul. — Sapa