- Seven people accused of tender fraud involving a R45 million Lepelle Northern Water board contract have been released on bail.
- The board's former chief executive is among the accused.
- The State, which initially opposed bail, reversed its stance due to Covid-19 safety measures.
Former Lepelle Northern Water board chief executive Phineas Legodi and six co-accused were released on bail on Monday after appearing in the Polokwane Magistrate's Court in Limpopo on several charges of fraud and theft.
Legodi appeared together with Matome Sefalafala, Ngwako Moseamedi, Gumani Ngangashe, Vusi Mhlongo and Mpho Chokolo.
The other accused is a juristic entity known as Falaz General Trading and Construction (Pty) Ltd owned by Sefalafala, who is also facing 16 counts of forgery for allegedly submitting invalid documents for a granted tender.
The matter relates to the awarding of a multi-million-rand waste management contract.
The State, represented by senior advocate Dalton Tshinyeni, initially opposed bail after all the accused were arrested last week.
But on Monday, the State made an about-turn, arguing that three of the accused came into contact with Covid-19 positive people and placing them in custody will go against the efforts of government to fight the pandemic.
This was also emphasised by National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) provincial spokesperson Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi outside court. "The State could not oppose bail because some of the accused were in contact with individuals who are [Covid-19] positive."
She said this matter was brought to the attention of the NPA when one of the accused declared being Covid-19 positive when being charged last week.
Magistrate J Abrams granted all the accused bail ranging from R1 000 to R20 000. The bail conditions include that they report to their local police stations five days a week, surrender passports and not interfere with witnesses.