The DA in the Free State has welcomed the promulgation in the Government Gazette for investigation into the Free State Asbestos Contract by the Special Investigating Unit. Pres. Cyril Ramaphosa announced it in the Government Gazette on Friday (12/07). Leona Kleynhans, DA member of the provincial legislature, said the investigation is the culmination of legal action by the party in 2015. “The DA Free State went to court in July 2015 in an attempt to stop payments in terms of the contract, which was clearly irregular.” The court deemed the matter not urgent, opening the way for the payments to continue. This investigation, signed off by Ramaphosa, will hopefully get to the bottom of the awarding of the contract and the flow of R250 million into the coffers of ANC politicians and cronies, said Kleynhans. Kleynhans maintains the investigation would vindicate its suspicions of wrongdoing in the controversial deal. Months later (October 2015), the DA further pursued the matter taking it to former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.Kleynhans said hope in the fight against corruption was restored earlier this year when the office of the current Public Protector, Adv. Busisiwe Mkwebane informed the complainant (Kleynhans) that there were serious irregularities uncovered in the awarding of the contract, and that criminal charges could be considered. The report into the asbestos deal is yet to be released by Mkwebane. “We are relieved that, at last, this entire contract and payments will be properly investigated and that the head of the department of the Human Settlements Department, Tim Mokhesi, as well as those who benefited, allegedly including the former Premier, Ace Magashule, will be held accountable for the money robbed from the people of the Free State Province,” said Kleynhans.The controversial contract was awarded by Free State Human Settlements to Blackhead Consulting/Diamond Hill JV for the “identification of asbestos roofed houses in the Free State”. “The contract would piggy-back on a contract awarded earlier to Blackhead Consulting in Gauteng.” The contract value for “Phase 1” was set at R250 million. Blackhead/Diamond Hill delivered a doubtful report to the department in which the contractors had supposedly identified 33 000 asbestos roofed houses in the province. Upon receiving detailed information on the contract in 2015, the DA immediately concluded that the contract was conceived and executed to defraud the department, and that payments to the contractors were irregular. At that stage R100 million had already been paid out.Subsequent to the court case, the remaining R150 million was paid out, Kleynhans explained. The controversial Free State Asbestos Contract is highlighted in Gangster State, a book by journalist Pieter Louis Myburgh. In the book Myburgh details the payment trail and the characters involved in this sordid saga.“It is indeed a tragedy that, once again, the needy people of the Free State were used as a cover for looting,” said Kleynhans.