Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

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

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Sabelo Skiti

Sabelo Skiti is an investigative journalist.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

‘Exciting’ ramp-up for Covid jabs

As more vaccines arrive in the country, South Africa could administer 420 000 doses a day

Mokgoro was party to talks of his resignation

The North West premier has defied the interim provincial committee’s decision

More top stories

‘Exciting’ ramp-up for Covid jabs

As more vaccines arrive in the country, South Africa could administer 420 000 doses a day

Mokgoro was party to talks of his resignation

The North West premier has defied the interim provincial committee’s decision

Richard Calland: Cyril’s wicked cabinet conundrum

Three weeks ago, a second term for the president seemed a safe bet, but the insurgency has thrown the puzzle pieces in the air

ConCourt finds that protection of LGBT+ rights was intrinsic to...

The court also found that the term hurtful should be excised from the Equality Act in that it did not meet the justification threshold in the Constitution and gave Parliament 24 months to do so
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×