/ 5 June 2024

Zizi Kodwa resigns as minister, pleads not guilty to R1.6m corruption

Zizi Kodwa 1522 Dv
Zizi Kodwa resigned from his sports, arts and culture ministerial post shortly after making his first appearance on Wednesday in the Johannesburg specialised commercial crimes court, sitting in Palm Ridge in Katlehong. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Facing five corruption counts for allegedly receiving more than R1.6 million in bribes, former minister Zizi Kodwa said he intended to plead not guilty to all charges.

Kodwa resigned from his sports, arts and culture ministerial post shortly after making his first appearance on Wednesday in the Johannesburg specialised commercial crimes court, sitting in Palm Ridge in Katlehong. 

In a statement, his former department confirmed that the corruption-accused “challenges the charges against him, which he strongly denies”.

The Mail & Guardian reported on 3 May that several sources close to the investigation said the state had a strong case that involved email and banking transfers to prove the charges against Kodwa. 

On Wednesday, Kodwa appeared alongside his co-accused, former EOH Holdings executive Jehan Mackay, to answer accusations that the senior politician received “cash and other benefits” to allegedly influence lucrative state tenders in favour of Mackay’s former employers. 

State advocate Neville Mogagabe told the court that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had completed its investigations, was ready to provide the case dockets to the defence and that the matter was ripe for trial. 

According to the NPA’s charge sheet, Mackay gave Kodwa 11 cash payments totalling more than R1.6 million, from April 2015 to February 2016 in what the state calls “gratification as defined in section 1 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act … for the intervention of accused two [Kodwa] in government procurement processes to advance the interests of accused one [Mackay]”. 

“The state will allege that both accused committed the offences in [the] execution of a common purpose. The state will further allege that the common purpose existed, at the very least, immediately prior to the commission of the offences, and it continued for the duration thereof,” the charge sheet  adds.

The alleged corruption related to a five-year R360 million tender by the State Information Technology Agency issued in February 2015.

“Nine companies, including EOH, were shortlisted for the tender, and communication between the two accused suggests that EOH was disqualified and that Mackay then approached Kodwa for his intervention which allegedly resulted in the tender being cancelled,” the state alleges. 

But advocate Zola Majavu, who represents Kodwa, said the state had weak evidence against his client, adding that the NPA would be “hard pressed” to achieve a conviction. 

“It is clear that there is reliance on a common purpose, which I can tell you for free that it was not properly pleaded in the charge sheet. All there is is a carbon copy of what was said at the Zondo commission,” Majavu said. 

He was alluding to Kodwa’s June 2022 testimony at the state capture commission of inquiry, in which he said his “friend” Mackay had regularly given him money when he was struggling financially. Kodwa was then the ANC’s national spokesperson and member of its national executive committee at the time. 

Kodwa told the commission that he bought himself a Jeep SUV after receiving R1 million from Mackay in April 2015. 

In his affidavit filed during his bail application on Wednesday, Kodwa said he would not interfere with the state’s investigation and its witnesses. He added that he would exercise his right to remain silent, and only present his defence when the trial began. 

“I intend to plead not guilty and I intend to attend the trial as I have full confidence in the justice system,” Kodwa stated in his affidavit, which was read out in court by Majavu. 

“I went to the commission with a deep respect for the rule of law. I never located myself as being above the law. That position has not changed [and] I will not evade my trial,” he added. 

Mackay also said he was innocent of the charges, adding that he gave Kodwa money “as a friend” and when he was not in government. 

Kodwa and Mackay were granted bail of R30 000 each and ordered to return to court on 23 July to give their legal representatives time to study the docket. 

In a statement released by the sports, arts and culture ministry, the department confirmed Kodwa’s resignation because he faces his charges, adding that the former minister had informed President Cyril Ramaphosa of his decision.

“Mr Kodwa expressed his sincere appreciation to the president and the governing party for the opportunity to serve the nation,” the statement reads. 

NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said the case against the two stemmed from the Zondo commission, which found that Kodwa had a “tainted relationship with Mackay”.