The Hawks’ arrest of four officials in the office of Premier Sihle Zikalala on tender fraud charges, including the chief financial officer, is just the tip of the iceberg, opposition parties say.
Chief financial officer Ziphathe Mboneni Cibane, 55, was granted R10 000 bail while Nomusa Zakwe, 35, personal assistant to a senior manager in the premier’s office, administration clerk Njabulo Makhathini, 34, and senior administration clerk Sthembiso Msomi, 53, were granted R5000 bail each by the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on Thursday.
Phumalanga Communications director Gugu Kheswa, 51, was granted R20000 bail and the case was postponed to October 2.
All face fraud and corruption charges relating to tender fraud amounting to R24million.
IFP MPL Blessed Gwala said his party was vindicated as it had always said that corruption was “right under the premier’s nose” because his office is supposed to oversee all departments.
“We are indeed vindicated and this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have had many allegations of fraud and corruption with little action from the premier. If there’s an investigation into a particular department or office, the public never gets to see the outcome of that investigation. He has a lot to say with little action where corruption is concerned.
“We need to thank the provincial police commissioner and the Hawks for the strides they have made in fighting corruption in the province, because it takes guts to investigate the premier’s office,” Gwala said.
Hawks spokesperson Simphiwe Mhlongo said the four officials are alleged to have “connived” with service providers to secure catering tenders while disregarding all supply chain procedures.
“The officials allegedly received gratification for their efforts. These allegations were reported to the Durban Serious Corruption Investigation Unit and a prosecution-guided investigation led to the arrest of the four officials and one service provider. The total value of the contracts under investigation is more than R20m,” said Mhlongo in a statement.
The national head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya, welcomed the arrests. “As we indicated before, all those who contributed to looting the government and municipalities shall be brought to justice,” he said.
Zikalala released a statement just after the arrests hit the news, calling for law enforcement agencies to be given space to deal with the officials.
He said he respected the rule of law and would allow the law to take its course, adding that some of the implicated officials were already on precautionary suspension pending the conclusion of internal disciplinary processes.
DA KZN leader Zwakele Mncwango said it was time that corrupt individuals were brought to book and, if charged, be given an opportunity to state their case.
“Most of the time we only hear and talk about allegations, which are never taken to court, so we hope that with this case we will finally have something tested in a court of law and whoever is found guilty should pay the price,” Mncwango said.
Corruption Watch spokesperson Valencia Talane said: “A responsible government, particularly under the circumstances that we find ourselves in as a country – where the opportunity for looting is massive – engages in strategies that show its commitment to avoiding corruption, and not just dealing with it when it shows up. The time for knee-jerk reactions is over. Accountable officials make a clean government, so making the environment within the public service uncomfortable for looters is what his office and indeed all others across the country should strive for.”