Hawks arrest Free State ‘asbestos project’ players

The Hawks have arrested several people, including prominent businessman Edwin Sodi, involved in the theft of more than R200-million from the Free State department of human settlements under the guise of an asbestos audit in that province. 

Up to seven people picked up in three different provinces are expected to make appearances at the Bloemfontein high court for charges related to fraud and corruption as well as contravention of the Public Finance Management Act, the Mail & Guardian has learnt. Five companies are scheduled to appear alongside them on Friday.

The arrests came a day after Sodi — a director in one of the companies, Blackhead Consulting — appeared before the commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture, where he was questioned about payments made to civil servants, and prominent politicians in the ANC. 

Since early August the commission has heard evidence from people involved in the 2013 project to audit houses that had asbestos in their ceilings with a view to eradicate it. 

Others arrested, the M&G has also learnt, include the department’s former head, Nthimotse Mokhesi, and former national human settlements director general Thabane Zulu. 


Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation head General Godfrey Lebeya said the arrests were a culmination of investigations that started in February, and which included collaboration with the commission chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

“There are seven people that we want to fetch there, if we find them … We’ve had our warrants for some time,” Lebeya said on Wednesday morning. 

He added the Hawks were careful to avoid a repeat of what happened in the arrest of former Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi in February 2019, while he was still expected to return to give further evidence at the commission. At the time Agrizzi’s legal representatives intimated that  the arrests were designed to intimidate his client. 

“We are working closely with the commission. We look at the impact of whatever action we are taking,” he added. 

Lebeya said the identities of the arrested would only be released once they appear in court. “Some of them are witnesses and some of them are suspects, so we will wait.”

Evidence put before the Zondo commission on this matter thus far includes that Sodi paid R600 000 to a car dealership where Zulu bought a Range Rover, and made a further R650 000 payment towards a property purchase by Mokhesi. 

Both officials in their capacity were found to have acted in ways that allowed a joint venture between Blackhead Consulting and Diamond Hill to obtain a tender worth R230-million to carry out work that in the end cost R21-million. 

Various investigations, including by the public protector and the auditor general, flagged the projects as far back as five years ago, but payments continued until last year. 

According to Sunday World Blackhead Consulting has netted up to R2-billion in state contracts.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sabelo Skiti

Sabelo Skiti is an investigative journalist.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Pandemic hobbles learners’ futures

South African schools have yet to open for the 2021 academic year and experts are sounding the alarm over lost learning time, especially in the crucial grades one and 12

Q&A Sessions: George Euvrard, the brains behind our cryptic crossword

George Euvrard spoke to Athandiwe Saba about his passion for education, clues on how to solve his crosswords and the importance of celebrating South Africa.

More top stories

Uganda: ‘I have never seen this much tear-gas in an...

Counting was slow across Uganda as a result of the internet shutdown, which affected some of the biometric machines used to validate voter registrations.

No way out for Thales in arms deal case, court...

The arms manufacturer has argued that there was no evidence to show that it was aware of hundreds of indirect payments to Jacob Zuma, but the court was not convinced.

Inside George Mukhari hospital’s second wave

The Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism and James Oatway visited George Mukhari academic hospital to document the second-wave realities experienced by doctors and nurses

Power shift at Luthuli House

Ace Magashule’s move to distance himself from Carl Niehaus signals a rebalancing of influence and authority at the top of the ANC
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…