S'bu Ndebele's charges to be dropped

2017-03-26 06:00
S'bu Ndebele. Picture: File

S'bu Ndebele. Picture: File

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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 director-general 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 R10m 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 Ebra-hiem 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.

Serunye wrote to RTMC lawyer Advocate Jeremy Gauntlet SC, saying: “We also don’t have anything that comes directly from Tasima to Mr X (former minister).” Abrahams was copied in on the email.

At his first court appearance, Ndebele’s case was postponed for six months for further investigation. It is unclear whether the prosecution now has sufficient evidence.

Political interference

In his diary, Cloete detailed political interference in his ­investigation in the months leading to Ndebele’s arrest.

He wrote on June 30 2015 that, during a meeting attended by senior Hawks and SIU officials, as well as Msibi and RTMC lawyers, they reiterated their request to arrest Ndebele and his co-accused, and if this did not happen, threatened that the minister would intervene.

Cloete wrote: “They were informed about the decision ­taken during the meeting with the prosecutor.

“They are clearly not satisfied with the feedback given and raises possible ministerial intervention if a decision not to prosecute on the matters referred in my entry dated 2015/06/26 (sic).”

Cloete further writes that Msibi and an RTMC lawyer ­demanded to know why no arrests had been made since the SIU handed the Hawks “a fully investigated file”.

“Mr Msibi was informed that this information is incorrect and that there is not sufficient evidence to charge anyone at this stage,” he writes.

Cloete’s diary states the RTMC told him that it was appointed to take over the eNatis contract from Tasima. 

They also mention that Tasima won the civil case in the ­Pretoria High Court, which ordered the department to pay it R176 million. For their appeal against that ruling, they ­wanted the Hawks to “execute the arrest so that they can use that as exceptional circumstances”.



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