Sodi church project grinds to a halt
Fraud accused 'never showed opulent lifestyle'
An incomplete church stands tall above neighbouring houses in the middle of the village in rural Limpopo where businessman Edwin Sodi was born.
The half-built structure which, according to villagers in Pelana in Bolobedu, has been under construction since last year, was partly funded by the controversial businessman together with senior Evangelical Lutheran Church of Southern Africa members.
On the same gravel road in front of the unfinished church in the heart of the village outside Modjadjiskloof stands a tiled-roof mansion occupying the main part of a yard.
The mansion, sandwiched by a sizeable tiled-roof house and a small rondavel, is where Sodi was born and raised. Even though it pales in comparison to the properties owned by Sodi that the asset forfeiture unit of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) seized in various parts of the country in relation to a R250m failed asbestos project in the Free State, it is equally noticeable in the village.
When Sowetan visited Sodi’s home his mother launched into a blistering attack on the media for reporting “wrong information” about her son.
“I no longer watch news or read newspapers because they are reporting misleading information about my son. It is not true that he was building the church alone, there are other members who were involved,” she said.
A senior church memberwho asked not to be named confirmed to Sowetan that the flamboyant businessman had been assisting with funds to build the church but that construction had stalled long before his legal troubles became public.
“I’m aware that he is assisting the Mpome circuit church in Pelana but it had stopped due to financial challenges. However, it is not my role to comment on the subject,” said the member.
The church’s Mapula Sekhitla had not responded to Sowetan’s request for comment at the time of going to print.
Sodi was described by locals in his home village as a humble person.
The local headman, Lawrence Sehlwane, said he had known Sodi for years and that he had grown up in the Lutheran Church, where his late father was a pastor.
He said that what Sodi was accused of had sent shock waves in the community as he had never wronged anyone.
“He is down to earth and very approachable. He never looked down at anybody and whenever he would come home he would ask about the affairs of the community,” Sehlwane said.
“He never showed us his opulent lifestyle and he would come in a simple car. When we had a destitute family that had a funeral he would assist with covering costs.”
According to locals who wished to remain anonymous, the construction of the church started last year but stalled in February.
Last month the NPA attached 29 vehicles, 27 properties, 19 active accounts and household goods belonging to Sodi and his company, Blackhead Consulting.
The asset seizures are related to the R255masbestos scandal in Free State that Blackhead Consulting and Diamond Hill Trading were in a joint venture in. The companies won the tender for the project in 2014.
The seized assets include Ferraris, Bentleys and properties worth millions. Other accused in the high-profile case that Sodi is facing include Nthimotse Mokhesi, a former HOD at the human settlements department, Mahlomola John Matlakala, a supply chain director, Sello Joseph Radebe, Kgotso Abel Manyike, a businessman, Thabane Wiseman Zulu, a former director-general for the human settlements department, and Matawana Mlamleli, the former Mangaung mayor and former human settlements MEC. They were granted bail ranging from R50,000 to R500,000.