‘Deplorable’ R35m Eskom fraudsters receive 20-year jail term

Magistrate Emmanuel Magampa called Bernard Moraka and Victor Tshabalala, the two fraudsters who stole R35-million from Eskom, “deplorable” as he handed them each a 20-year prison sentence for their 32-month graft scam. 

Moraka, Eskom’s former financial controller, was convicted last year for creating 53 fictitious invoices and paying Meagra Transportation, Tshabalala’s company, for work not done from January 2016 to September 2018 in what the magistrate said was the work of “rogues”. 

Magampa delivered his sentence on Tuesday at the Johannesburg specialised commercial crimes court, sitting in Palm Ridge. 

“What makes this offence even more serious is the fact that both of you were in a position of trust; more so in relation [to Moraka] as a financial controller. This placed on you the duty not only to be vigilant and diligent in dealing with Eskom’s resources, money included, but to also be very protective and to jealously safeguard it against theft. 

“For you to then turn around and be the one to defraud Eskom is highly deplorable,” Magampa chastised. 

He added that the fraudsters were motivated only by greed, saying he would not accept their “flimsy and unconvincing reasons” for him to deviate from the minimum prescribed sentence of 15 years each for 51 of the 53 fraud counts they were convicted on. 

Moraka, 48, and Tshabalala, 55, received five years’ imprisonment each for the two remaining charges. The charges were joined together for purposes of sentencing, meaning both fraudsters would spend a definite 20 years behind bars. 

“Moraka spent the money on luxury cars and overseas trips with his new family and went to places that most people can only dream of. 

“There is nothing wrong with [a] person enjoying [a] lavish lifestyle, but there is everything wrong with a person committing crime to sustain it,” Magampa asserted. 

It emerged during the trial that Moraka had remarried and taken the five children from his new marriage around the world with his ill-gotten gains, including to places such as Disneyland in the US and Paris in France. 

Moraka was also caught in a lie during the trial when he testified that he had given half of his R500 000 Eskom pension payment, which he received after resigning weeks before his arrest in October 2019, to his former wife, Jane Moraka, with whom he has two minor children. 

Jane Moraka testified three weeks ago, during Moraka’s sentencing hearing, that she did not receive “a single cent” from her fraudster former husband’s payout, and that he had last seen their two children on 4 December 2011. She was called by the prosecutor, advocate Bongani Chauke, to debunk Moraka’s testimony. 

The magistrate acknowledged that both criminals’ families, among whom are 10 children dependent on the fraudsters, would suffer as Moraka and Tshabalala spent the next 20 years in jail. However, Magampa emphasised: “Unfortunately, that is the unavoidable harm they [the children] will have to deal with because of their fathers’ deeds.” 

Magampa said he had no choice but to enforce the guaranteed 20-year sentence, because the crime of fraud at state entities drained the fiscus through the billions of rand in bailouts that the treasury doled out to struggling parastatals. 

“It is for this reason that the community has great interest in the punishment that the courts are called upon to impose on offenders in your mould. Only appropriate punishment will vindicate them and enhance their confidence in the criminal justice system,” he said.

The lowest amount the criminals stole was R90 312.94, which was the fourth fraudulent transaction and was made in August 2016. The highest and last invoice paid was the 53rd in September 2018, when they syphoned off 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 in 27 transactions, and more than R15.6-million in 2018 in 18 transactions. In 2017 and 2018, Moraka and Tshabalala scored more than R1-million in 10 payments. In 2017, six payments exceeded R1-million and four were above the  R1-million mark in 2018. 

In total, Moraka and Tshabalala made off with R34 984 427.57.

The pair were immediately taken into custody on Tuesday, to be driven to a correctional facility and begin their sentence.

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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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