Blue light tender fraud: State is ready for trial, despite bid to have matter struck off roll

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Former deputy national police commissioner Bonang Mgwenya in court.
Former deputy national police commissioner Bonang Mgwenya in court.
File, News24
  • The prosecutor in the blue lights tender matter says the State is ready to proceed with the trial.
  • The accused include former acting national police commissioner Kgomotso Phahlane, former deputy national police commissioner Bonang Mgwenya and former Gauteng police commissioner Deliwe de Lange.
  • They face charges of fraud, corruption, theft and money laundering related to a R191 million tender to fit 1 500 police vehicles with blue lights.

While lawyers representing former senior police officers and a businessman allegedly linked to the SAPS' fraudulent multimillion-rand blue light tender are fighting to have the matter struck off the roll, the State says it is ready to proceed with the trial.

The accused appeared in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.

The trial was scheduled for 16 November to 10 December, but the court has since heard an application by lawyers representing the accused, including a private company owned by businessman Vimpie Phineas Tlalefang Manthata, News24 previously reported.

The lawyers applied for the matter to be removed from the roll, claiming that delays and postponements by the State showed it was not ready to proceed.

The accused are Manthata, his company Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement, former acting national police commissioner Kgomotso Phahlane, and former deputy national police commissioner Bonang Mgwenya.

READ | Blue light tender case: Lawyers representing Phahlane, Mgwenya and others want matter dismissed

The other accused are former Gauteng police commissioner Deliwe de Lange, Ramahlapi Mokwena, James Ramanjalum, Lettie Napo, Thomas Marima, Joseph Mulaiwa, Judy Rose and Samantha Andrews.

They face 392 charges, which include fraud, corruption, theft and money laundering related to a R191 million tender to fit 1 500 police vehicles with blue lights.

Mgwenya was recently fired from her position after police management launched a departmental investigation following her court appearance. She was suspended on 15 October.

Phahlane's lawyer, Zweli Zakwe, had launched an application in terms of Section 342A of the Criminal Procedure Act, asking the court to investigate delays in the matter that they said appeared to be unreasonable, TimesLive reported.

The lawyer claimed some items were removed during search and seizure operations conducted at properties of the accused.

However, on Tuesday, advocate Tilas Chabalala hit back, saying Phahlane, who is accused 7 in the matter, had "always been trying to have the case struck from the roll".

"The allegations that the State is delaying the commencement of the trial and/or making it impossible for the trial to proceed and/or not ready to proceed with the trial are not backed up by any objective evidence," he said.

READ | Blue light tender fraud: Ex-Gauteng top cop opens perjury case against Khehla Sitole

Chabalala said the State was ready to proceed and prove that Phahlane received gratification from Manthata and his company.

He said the State would also show the court the items received as gratification.

Chabalala said the search and seizure operations at Phahlane's premises were not an "obstacle to the commencement of the trial".

"The legal representative of accused 7 [Phahlane] keeps on threatening to challenge the validity of the search. The threat is never carried out. They then turn around and say the State is making it impossible for them to be ready and thereby engineering a postponement."

He said the search and seizure operations were necessitated by what was discovered while wading through hundreds of thousands of documents seized during a search conducted on 15 July 2019.

The advocate added: "It is intriguing that the legal representative of the 13 accused persons chose to say nothing about the search that made the size of the docket as big as it is. The admissibility of what was discovered during the searches conducted on 12 October 2020 will be decided upon by the trial court."

Turning to Mgwenya, Chabalala said she was arrested after it was discovered that she "played a big role in the manipulation of the specifications".

ALSO READ | 3 accused in vehicle scam case 'also connected to blue lights investigation'

"The State could not turn a blind eye to overwhelming evidence of her involvement. The arrest was not aimed at delaying the commencement of the trial," he said.

"The fight against serious, complex, organised crime should not be tampered with without good reasons.

"It is very clear from the court record that there have been oppositions to postponements of the case since the day accused 7 [Phahlane] was joined as an accused in these proceedings," he said.

The matter was postponed to 9 December.

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