CHARGES TO BE DROPPED

De­spite in­ves­ti­ga­tors ques­tion­ing the amount of ev­i­dence against the em­bat­tled former min­is­ter, the de­part­ment of trans­port and Shaun Abra­hams al­legedly pushed for his ar­rest

CityPress - - News - ABRAM MASHEGO abram.mashego@city­press.co.za

The cor­rup­tion case against S’bu Ndebele ap­pears set to be dropped af­ter he com­plained to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma about po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in his pros­e­cu­tion. Three se­nior sources told City Press that a se­nior min­is­ter was then asked to “me­di­ate” be­tween the de­fence and pros­e­cu­tion to avert the pos­si­bil­ity of a mas­sive em­bar­rass­ment.

In a case rem­i­nis­cent of the “spy tapes” saga – which saw Zuma get off the hook on 783 cor­rup­tion charges – emails and an in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer’s diary re­veal how Na­tional Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions (NDPP) Shaun Abra­hams, Road Traf­fic Man­age­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (RTMC) chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEO) Makhosini Msibi, the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit (SIU) and the Hawks’ Anti-cor­rup­tion Task Team head Ma­jor Gen­eral Zinhle Mnonopi put pres­sure on the pros­e­cu­tor and in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer to rush Ndebele’s ar­rest.

The doc­u­ments show that in late 2015, the de­part­ment of trans­port needed Ndebele and his co-ac­cused ar­rested to strengthen their civil case against the com­pany Tasima, which was be­fore the Supreme Court of Ap­peal. The de­part­ment wanted to take over Tasima’s mul­ti­mil­lion-rand con­tract to man­age its Elec­tronic Na­tional Ad­min­is­tra­tion Traf­fic In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem, com­monly known as eNatis.

Ndebele – the former KwaZulu-Na­tal premier and pro­vin­cial ANC chair­per­son, the former min­is­ter of both trans­port and cor­rec­tional ser­vices, and, most re­cently, the High Com­mis­sioner to Aus­tralia – is the most se­nior ANC heavy­weight to be ar­rested and charged with cor­rup­tion.

Sources claim Ndebele met Zuma in July last year at his pres­i­den­tial home, Mahlamba Nd­lopfu, to com­plain about po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in his case and the con­duct of the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity (NPA).

Zuma al­legedly ex­pressed em­pa­thy for Ndebele, adding that he had had it worse with the NPA and the Scor­pi­ons.

There­after, Ndebele al­legedly re­ceived a call from the se­nior min­is­ter who was tasked with “me­di­at­ing” be­tween him and the NPA.

How­ever, pres­i­dency spokesper­son Bon­gani Nqu­lunga said: “The pres­i­dent has no knowl­edge of the al­le­ga­tions be­ing made about the case of Sibu­siso Ndebele. It is all a to­tal fab­ri­ca­tion. There is no truth in the al­le­ga­tions and who­ever is us­ing the pres­i­dent’s name to ad­vance his cause on this case is ly­ing in the ex­treme.”

CHARGES

Ndebele and his co-ac­cused – former trans­port di­rec­tor­gen­eral Ge­orge Mahlalela, deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral Gil­bert Th­wala, of­fi­cial Te­bogo Mputi, busi­ness­man Sibi­siso Ncube, and Tasima – will make what could be their last ap­pear­ance at the Pre­to­ria Com­mer­cial Crimes Court on Thurs­day.

Three sources close to the pros­e­cu­tion and de­fence told City Press last week that the charges could be dropped be­fore the mat­ter is re­ferred to the high court.

“The de­ci­sion to drop the pros­e­cu­tion has al­ready been com­mu­ni­cated to Ndebele’s lawyers. We are just wait­ing for a writ­ten con­fir­ma­tion,” said a source close to Ndebele. Ndebele and his co-ac­cused de­clined to com­ment. He faces 15 charges in­clud­ing bribery‚ money laun­der­ing‚ cor­rup­tion and fraud.

He is al­leged to have re­ceived a R10 mil­lion bribe in re­turn for fa­cil­i­tat­ing ten­ders worth R2 bil­lion from the de­part­ment of trans­port.

Late last year, he made rep­re­sen­ta­tions to Abra­hams ask­ing for the case to be dropped.

THE DAMN­ING EMAILS

His rep­re­sen­ta­tions con­tain emails and notes that City Press has ob­tained, which re­veal that both pros­e­cu­tor Ad­vo­cate Peter Serunye and Hawks de­tec­tive Lieu­tenant Colonel Ebrahiem Cloete wanted more time to com­plete their in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­fore Ndebele and the oth­ers were ar­rested and charged.

In an email dated De­cem­ber 3 2015, Serunye gave Cloete a list of tasks that needed to be com­pleted be­fore Ndebele and the oth­ers could be ar­rested.

“I in­tend to for­ward a mem­o­ran­dum to the NDPP plead­ing for the pros­e­cu­tion and in­ves­ti­ga­tion team to be given enough time to have the in­ves­ti­ga­tions com­pleted be­fore en­rolling the mat­ter,” read the email copied to the NPA’s spe­cialised com­mer­cial crime unit (SCCU) re­gional head Mar­shall Mok­gatlhe.

“I need an in­di­ca­tion from you as to when you’re likely to have fi­nalised all th­ese out­stand­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

Three min­utes later, Serunye wrote back to Cloete: “Please dis­re­gard the mes­sage be­low. I just got a call from the NDPP now at 4.17pm (three min­utes af­ter send­ing the email to you) say­ing that we must ef­fect the ar­rests on the sus­pects.”

The NPA Act bars na­tional di­rec­tors from par­tic­i­pat­ing in early pros­e­cu­to­rial de­ci­sions be­cause of their power to re­view and set aside de­ci­sions taken by their ju­niors.

But in the same email, Serunye writes: “The NDPP says that the mat­ter must be placed on the roll and then post­poned for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tions. He wants an up­date again to­mor­row (04/12/2015) about the ar­rest... I don’t know what to say any more to the NDPP (sic).”

NPA spokesper­son Lu­vuyo Mfaku said: “No, the NDPP did not per­son­ally in­volve him­self in the mat­ter. The NDPP has over­all con­trol and main­tains an over­sight role in re­la­tion to all pros­e­cu­tions na­tion­ally.”

But two hours af­ter re­ceiv­ing the email, Cloete, not sat­is­fied with the ev­i­dence he had gath­ered, wrote to Mnonopi who had in­formed him that Hawks boss Mthandazo Ntle­meza had re­ceived a com­plaint and wanted the sus­pects ar­rested as soon as pos­si­ble. “I have no in­ten­tion to ar­rest any of the sus­pects with­out a war­rant of ar­rest ... Given the cir­cum­stances un­der which I am be­ing com­pelled to ex­e­cute an ar­rest, I will com­plete the ap­pli­ca­tion ... and a pros­e­cu­tor must ap­ply to a mag­is­trate for the is­sue of such war­rants,” he wrote.

An email sent on De­cem­ber 11 2015, four days be­fore Ndebele was ar­rested and charged, shows how in­com­plete the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was. Con­tin­ued on page 2

An email from pros­e­cu­tor Ad­vo­cate Peter Serunye that sug­gests the ex­tent to which NDPP Shaun Abra­hams in­ter­fered with the case

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