The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) acting head in Mpumalanga, Matric Luphondo, appeared in the Pretoria magistrate’s court on Wednesday on corruption charges along with the head of the human settlements department in the province, Kebone Masange, and a lieutenant colonel from the Hawks.
The three allegedly conspired to collapse a case of fraud and contravention of immigration laws against the Zimbabwean-born Masange.
According to the Hawks, Luphondo offered the complainant in the matter R5 000 in cash and an 18-year-old bottle of Glenfiddich whisky.
“The allegations are that the lieutenant colonel was paid a gratification of R28 000 of [a total of] R100 000 to assist in getting the case withdrawn against the accused person,” the Hawks said.
“A senior member of the NPA in Mpumalanga also approached the complainant with a similar request of having the case withdrawn against the accused person. The NPA official offered and handed a gratification of R5 000 and an 18-year-old bottle of Glenfiddich Scotch whisky.”
According to the charge sheet, the bribes were offered to senior prosecutor Andrew Mphanga on 18 March to persuade him to withdraw charges against Masange.
The Hawks officer, Masange and Luphondo were arrested earlier this week.
Luphondo had been tasked with monitoring evidence that emerged from the Zondo commission with a view to formulating charges against those implicated in state capture.
He was also one of the candidates for the position of national director of public prosecutions, which went to Advocate Shamila Batohi in 2019.
In his interview for that position, Luphondo told the panel that people had twice tried to bribe him to withdraw charges, in one instance offering him a BMW, and said that prosecutorial independence meant a refusal “to be unduly influenced”.
Masange was arrested by the Hawks in September 2020 after it emerged that he had three different South African identity documents, issued on different dates.
One stated that he was born in Johannesburg, another that he was born in Pietermaritzburg and a third that he was Zimbabwean but qualified for a local ID document in terms of an exemption to immigration rules granted to nationals of South Africa’s northern neighbours.
His case was postponed last year for further investigation.
At the time, the ANC leadership took no decision to suspend Masange, but it will now be compelled to do so should he fail to step aside in terms of the directive from the national executive committee at the weekend giving officials implicated in serious crimes 30 days to leave their posts or be removed.
The NPA said it has initiated labour processes against Luphondo.
“While the NPA is disappointed that any of its officials is entangled in such allegations, in conflict with our new values which are anchored in high ethical conduct, integrity and credibility, we take pride in the men and women who are resolute in defending our new vision,” it said.
“It is encouraging that there were prosecutors and investigators who acted swiftly and with honesty and strong moral principles in defence of our moral values.”
This story has been updated since the suspect appeared in court.