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What is the noise about Ace?

South Africa’s directorate for priority crime investigation, the Hawks, has distanced itself from a news report that ANC secretary general Ace Magashule has been issued with a warrant of arrest over his role in the controversial Vrede dairy farm project. 

On Tuesday night, Independent Online (IOL) reported that Magashule had confirmed to it that he is aware of the authorisation of his arrest. He added that sources inside the Hawks have confirmed that the secretary general was part of the list of people who are set to be arrested this month.

The media house quoted him saying: “I’m aware. I’m aware. It’s going to be a Hollywood style type of thing. But we will see.”

This story comes amid an increase of high-profile arrests by the Hawks.

Last week, the priority crime investigation body arrested six high-profile individuals for their role in the R250-million project to audit asbestos in the roofs of houses in the Free State. 

Among them was businessman Edwin Sodi, former Free State human settlements department head Nthimotse Mokhesi, and former Mangaung metro mayor Sarah Mlamleli.  The group has been charged with fraud, theft, corruption and money laundering.

On Wednesday, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said that they have no knowledge of the warrant against Magashule. 

“The Hawks will like to categorically distance itself from the news report. We are not aware of any warrant of arrest that has been issued against Mr Ace Magashule,” said Mulaudzi.  

IOL said that Magashule will be charged for his alleged failure to exercise oversight relating to the Vrede dairy farm investigation.

The Vrede dairy project was established in 2012 on Krynaauwslust farm near the town of Vrede in the Free State. The project was a public-private partnership between black economic empowerment company Estina as part of the Free State provincial government’s agricultural project Mohoma-Mobung.

The project, which amounted to R250-million, was intended to empower black farmers — however no payments were made to them. Magashule was the premier of Free State at the time, and is believed to be connected to the project.

Meanwhile, News24 has reported that Magashule’s lawyer and he himself are unaware of the warrant. So far, the Hawks have made 17 arrests. This includes ANC MP Vincent Smith and former Bosasa boss Angelo Agrizzi, who were both arrested on charges of corruption.

Last week, businessman Thoshan Panday and Colonel Navin Madhoe both appeared in court on allegations of fraud and corruption for their alleged involvement in irregular tenders for police accommodation and supplies for officers working on the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

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Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe
Tshegofatso Mathe is a financial trainee journalist at the Mail & Guardian.

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