Eskom R35m fraud sentencing stalled by death of relative

The death of former Eskom financial controller Bernard Moraka’s mother has stalled the start of his sentencing proceedings for R35-million fraud after he was convicted of  53 theft charges relating to a two-and-a-half-year graft scam. 

Moraka did not make it to the Johannesburg specialised commercial crimes court in Palm Ridge on Tuesday, and his matter was postponed by two weeks. 

He was charged alongside Meagra Transportation director Victor Tshabalala, who pleaded guilty to all charges. 

Their conviction and sentencing proceedings come in the wake of crippling rolling blackouts by Eskom that have plunged the country into darkness for weeks, highlighting the dire state of the state power utility. 

In a moment of irony, the lights went off inside the Ekurhuleni courthouse on Tuesday as the company that both Moraka and Tshabalala fleeced battles to keep the power on. 

The two were convicted of generating false invoices and claiming payment for Meagra Transportation supposedly ferrying coal the company had not delivered in Mpumalanga. To start with, it did not have a contract with Eskom to do so.

The scam ran from January 2016 to September 2018. 

“Meagra was used by both accused as a vehicle to defraud Eskom … The said close corporation [Meagra] was never inducted to render such a service at Palesa Mine. They [Moraka and Tshabalala] were therefore not entitled to claim any payments from Eskom for trips from Palesa Mine to Forfar and/or Clewer,” reads the charge sheet against the fraudsters. 

According to bank records submitted as part of the chain of evidence, the pair started off slowly and gradually increased the amounts in the fraudulent invoices submitted. 

The lowest amount claimed was R90 312.94, which was the fourth fraudulent transaction and was made in August 2016. The largest and last invoice paid was the 53rd, in September 2018, when the pair received more than R1.7-million. 

Eight transactions were claimed in 2016, and R2.3-million was stolen between January and December of that year. 

More than R16.7-million was paid out in 2017 over 27 transactions, while more than R15.6-million was paid in 2018 spanning 18 transactions. 

The two fraudsters, who are still out on bail pending their sentencing, are expected back in court in two weeks.

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Khaya Koko
Khaya Koko is a journalist with a penchant for reading through legal documents braving the ravages of cold court benches to expose the crooked. He writes about social justice and human-interest stories. Most importantly, he is a card-carrying member of the Mighty Orlando Pirates.

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