Hawks swoop down with more arrests in R1.4-billion corruption blitz

The recent blitz of arrests for government-based fraud and corruption amounted to a combined R1.4-billion by Thursday; the latest arrests have taken place in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. 

In Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, 49-year-old Pumza Gambula was arrested on two counts of fraud for allegedly swindling the OR Tambo district municipality of R4.8-million related to Covid-19-awareness workshops the state said she did not conduct. 

Pumza Gambula during her appearance at the Mthatha magistrate’s court. (Supplied)

She was arrested by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, better known as the Hawks

From March to June, Gambula’s company, Phathilizwi Training Institute, which has also been charged, submitted two invoices to the district municipality using alleged fraudulent documents. 

“The state alleges that the accused [Gambula] and their employees visited the wards in these municipalities, however, members of the community were asked to write down their names for Covid-19 social grants.  

“No Covid-19 awareness workshops were conducted,” the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said.

“Attendance registers attached to the invoices as proof of services rendered contained names of people who were not staying in some of the wards that were visited by the accused as part of their ‘door-to-door awareness campaign on Covid-19’. 

“These documents were widely circulated on social media leading to massive national outcry,” the NPA added.

NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema told the Mail & Guardian that there was a possibility of more arrests being made in addition to that of Gambula. 

“The investigations are ongoing and more arrests could be made in this matter,” he said when asked about why the employees were not arrested. 

Gambula was released on R20 000 bail, and indicated she would plead not guilty to the two fraud charges. 

A billion rand in Gauteng

Meanwhile, at the Johannesburg specialised commercial crimes court, four senior Gauteng department of health employees made their first appearance to face charges of corruption (amounting to R1-billion) and contravening the Public Finance Management Act. 

The accused are: Sybil Ngcobo, former head of department and its accounting officer; Mmakgosi Mosupi, former chief director of information and communications technology; Valdis Romaano, former director of supply-chain management; and Obakeng Mookeletsi, deputy director general for executive support. 

This related to a 2007 open tender to procure electronic systems for the department’s human-resources department. The tender was estimated to cost R630-million, but ballooned to more than R1-billion. 

The charge sheet, which the M&G has seen, said the price inflation was caused by a number of allegedly fraudulent deviations, and that more than R1-million in bribes were paid. 

Ramaano is accused of having received R952 358 towards the refurbishment of his house, while Mookeletsi received a direct payment into his personal bank account. 

The alleged bribes were paid by two company directors, both of whom are known to the M&G, and are listed on the charge sheet, but could not be arrested as yet because they are out of the country. 

“The criminal investigation by the Hawks is subsequent to an investigation by the SIU [Special Investigation Unit] that was authorised by the [then acting president Kgalema Motlanthe] on 14 May 2010,” Ngwema said. 

“The SIU was to investigate the procurement and contracting for goods and services in respect [of] the provisioning of a health information system and electronic health records … by the [Gauteng department of health] during or about December 2007. 

He added: “They also had to investigate all the irregularities surrounding the contract.”   

Ngwema said that arrests of officials who held more senior positions, whose names are known to the M&G, were expected as investigations continue. 

All four accused indicated they intended to plead not guilty. Ngcobo was released on R8 000 bail, while her three co-accused were each granted bail of R25 000.

The accused are expected back in court in December. 

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.

Related stories

China’s resource-for-infrastructure deals

Are RFIs a viable model for aiding Africa’s economic development?

Covid vaccines: Hope balanced with caution

As Covid vaccines near the manufacturing stage, a look at two polio vaccines provides valuable historical insights

Covid-19 vaccines offer hope as world leaders plan for future

Hopes over Covid-19 vaccines have given a boost to virus-weary citizens across the globe, but the disease remains rampant and world leaders are urging people to be patient

Zondo tightens his grip with criminal complaint against Zuma

The state capture commission’s star witness now faces a criminal complaint and another summons

Business schools need to mimic new reality

With most corporates effectively having their staff work remotely, educators will need to match and exceed this if they are to do more than just survive

Virtual world left out of policy on universities’ international collaboration

The pandemic has underlined the need for effective research, teaching and learning through virtual platforms regardless of travel restrictions

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

General Counsel of the Bar slams Zuma Foundation

Another summons has been served on Jacob Zuma at his Nkandla residence, requiring the former president to appear before the Zondo Commission next year

CR17 report is not perfect, but the investigation was rational,...

So says public protector Busisiwe Mkwhebane’s lawyer, who said she had reason to suspect the money was being laundered through the campaign

‘We struggle for water, but power stations and coal mines...

A proposed pipeline will bring water polluted with Gauteng’s sewage to the Waterberg in Limpopo to boost the coal industry during the climate crisis

Journey through anxious Joburg

A new book has collected writing about the condition of living, yes, with a high crime rate, but also other, more pervasive existential urban stresses particular to the Global South

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…