Ex-MEC faces 15 years in jail
An exotic holiday with a friend, an outstanding tax bill and a family trip to the Kruger National Park – those are just some of the freebees a former Limpopo health MEC allegedly scored from two companies that received contracts from her department while she was in charge.
Now prosecutors are confident that Miriam Segabutla – who was re-employed as a chief director in the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) after she was fired from her MEC post – may find herself behind bars for 15 years.
Segabutla and her co-accused, businessmen Johnny Lucas and Pieter Erasmus, are facing charges of corruption and fraud in the North Gauteng High Court. The three are out on bail of R25 000 each.
City Press has seen the finalised forensic report into their allegedly corrupt relationship that reveals Tsepo Technology Consulting and Trispen Solutions – both owned by Lucas – bankrolled lifestyle extras for Segabutla and her family to the tune of at least R154 000. The report, finalised late last year, reveals that between 2009 and 2010, while she was MEC, the companies paid:
R50 000 for Segabutla to go on a trip to Brazil with a friend. She received the payment through a conference delegate while attending a provincial ANC Woman’s League conference in Polokwane;
A payment of R36 000 “regarding Ms Segabutla’s [SA Revenue Service] admissions”;
School and registration fees at a top Pretoria private boarding school for Segabutla’s daughter, totalling R68 000; and even a
R150 payment for a book bought at CNA by a secretary for one of the companies for her daughter.
The forensic report reveals Segabutla went on a two-night trip to the four-star Kruger Park Lodge with her mother, daughter and her daughter’s friend, driven there by a driver from the Limpopo department of social development.
“Ms Segabutla signed in at the lodge using her maiden name, K Saohatse,” the driver wrote in his police affidavit.
Other trips Segabutla went on courtesy of Lucas’ companies included a R17 000 jaunt to the five-star Walkersons Hotel & Spa in Dullstroom, Mpumalanga, and a R12 000 two-day trip to the five-star Beverly Hills Hotel in Umhlanga. Her daughter spent a night at the Garden Court Hotel in Hatfield, Pretoria, with a friend, courtesy of Lucas’ companies.
The forensic report contains extensive call records that show that before the two tenders, worth a combined R16 million, were awarded to the two companies, Segabutla was in regular communication with their owner, Lucas, and his proxy, Erasmus.
Without it going to tender, the companies were awarded contracts to conduct a forensic audit on the provincial health department’s “Cisco Network Equipment Acquisition” and the Provincial Health Information System. City Press has, however, seen a letter written by an official from Tsepo Technology Consulting and sent to Segabutla offering to perform the audit for the department for free.
The arrangements seem to have changed and Tsepo Technology Consulting and Trispen Solutions were later offered two contracts to perform the jobs.
The forensic report found that Lucas tried to create the impression that the two companies were independent of each other, and even went so far as to resign from one of the companies, but continued to have access to its bank accounts. He appointed Erasmus as a proxy owner.
Segabutla, whose contract at Dirco is expected to expire soon, listed Lucas among her daughter’s “uncles” permitted to visit her at the Pretoria school.
The report reveals investigators visited hospitals in Limpopo to establish if any services were provided to them by either company. Some of the officials they found told investigators they had not heard of them.
The Hawks arrested Segabutla, along with Lucas and his employees and associates Kwena Masehela, Professor Mushwana and Merriam Masehela in a predawn raid in March 2013. Some among the group turned state witness.
In a report titled Befuddled Interest released in February 2012 Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that Segabutla acted improperly and was guilty of conflict of interest when awarding tenders to two companies owned by her “friends”. Madonsela recommended she be made to account for this and further recommended that President Jacob Zuma reprimand Segabutla for unethical conduct.
While interviewing provincial health officials, the police were told that some officials had been ordered to lie to the Public Protector’s investigators.
Two weeks of trying to obtain comment from Segabutla and her co-accused by voice message, SMS and through friends and colleagues proved fruitless.
CAUGHT OUT Former Limpopo MEC for health and social development Miriam Segabutla and one of her alleged accomplices, Johnny Lucas, in the dock