Joburg’s R12bn graft probe exposed
The man hunting down crooks tells how he nails them
THE corruption-busting Joburg investigation unit has made arrests that have uncovered a staggering R2 billion in illicit deals.
A further R10bn of Joburg graft is still being probed.
Major-General Shadrack Sibiya, head of the City of Joburg’s internal investigations, told The Star exclusively that he was shocked at the depth of the corruption rot in the country’s economic capital, but he promised to go after all those implicated in bleeding the city’s coffers.
“No criminals will be spared, even those who are politically connected,” Sibiya warned.
The former head of the Hawks in Gauteng detailed the corruption he had uncovered in the city since assuming his position last November.
It includes elaborate schemes by the city’s revenue department to defraud the public, brazen syndicates hijacking inner-city buildings, which he said had caused severe urban decay, as well as the illegal selling of municipal land.
Sibiya explained how, two weeks ago, in conjunction with law-enforcement agencies that included the Hawks, they had arrested two members of the public who had allegedly worked with the city’s revenue department, impersonating debt-collectors to swindle residents out of money.
“For example, if you buy a house at an auction and that house has a service bill of R100 000 for rates and taxes, they would get that information and approach the new owner to say: ‘You owe the city R100 000. We are aware that you bought a house recently. If you pay us 50% of the money, we will write off the rest’,” he said.
“The monies would be paid into their account, which is how they allegedly operated. And this was not their first arrest. They were arrested last year for the same offence. When we arrested them this year, they were appearing in court in a similar case,” Sibiya added.
Asked whether the city obtained successful prosecutions for the arrests they make, Sibiya emphasised: “Yes, we do get successful prosecutions. Remember, our arrests are fairly new. We are already sitting with people who are plea-bargaining.”
The general was adamant that Joburg would recoup the money embezzled from its ratepayers and the city’s coffers.
“Some of the processes rely on law-enforcement agencies, such as the Asset Forfeiture Unit, where we have to first trace the assets of the perpetrators and then pursue them through a civil case,” he explained.
“As we speak, I am busy arranging for the arrest of people who are selling off council land – empty stands that belong to the city.”
Sibiya would not be drawn on releasing the names of people and companies that were perpetrating graft in the city before the court processes are concluded.
He pointed out that municipal land was being sold for between R80 000 and R100 000 in cases where they are aware that the money was being deposited into different accounts which they have been tracking.
Announcing his appointment last year, mayor Herman Mashaba said he was bringing in the country’s “best investigator” to crack down on corruption in the city.
“When I came into the city, I found cases of corruption that needed attention… I do not have expertise and knowledge to investigate them and I’m not competent to do the job, hence the establishment of the unit for the city,” Mashaba said at the time.
Sibiya stressed that he had heeded the mayor’s call, saying his unit had adopted the “shock and awe” military mantra for itself.
It is a military term that seeks to neutralise the enemy (corruption), then destroy it completely.
This mantra, Sibiya added, is used to tackle the more than 80 hijacked buildings in the inner city, where he conceded that known syndicates are also at play.
“Of course, there are syndicates and we are working on them.
“We are busy in the kitchen cooking…
“We have already arrested five people who are part of the syndicate.
“We are not at liberty to disclose the nationality of the crime lords that were involved in the syndicates that have been bust,” Sibiya added.
Yes, we do get successful prosecutions...
SYNDICATE HUNTER: Major-General Shadrack Sibiya talks to The Star about his unit’s successes in fighting graft involving billions in the City of Joburg. PICTURE: BHEKIKHAYA MABASO