Magashule allegedly strongarmed awarding of housing contract, Zondo commission hears

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Ace Magashule.
Ace Magashule.
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  • The Zondo commission has heard that former Free State premier Ace Magashule allegedly gave instructions to the department of human settlement to give a particular person contracts to build houses. 
  • Former Free State human settlement boss Mpho Mokoena was testifying at the commission on Wednesday.   
  • The focus is on the R1-billon Free State housing scheme.  

The state capture inquiry has heard that former Free State premier Ace Magashule allegedly gave instructions for the appointment of a particular contractor to build houses in Kroonstad, and for the contractor's claims to be expedited. 

This is according to former Free State human settlement department boss Mpho Mokoena, who testified for a second day before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

The commission is focusing on a billion-rand Free State housing scheme, which has been described as "completely irregular" and "fraudulent".

In 2010 and 2011, the Free State government was meant to build thousands of low-cost houses and, although foundations were laid and building materials bought, the houses were never built. 

The commission has also heard that the provincial department spent more than R500 million before any work was done. It has also heard that then-MEC Mosebenzi Zwane selected who should be part of the project. 

Money

The money was spent after the national department threatened to transfer the Free State budget to other "better performing provinces", because the province under spent the money allocated to it.  

Mokoena told the commission that Zwane devised a plan on how to spend the money.

He also said that, when it was detected by the national department that the scheme was illegal, Zwane still wanted to continue.  

On Wednesday morning, Mokoena was asked about a Rochelle Els and if she receieved contracts from the department, and if Zwane had told him about her relationship with Magashule. 

Mokoena replied: "Correct, chair. He (Zwane) told me that we must ensure that this contractor gets a contract to build houses in Kroonstad because that is the instruction from the Premier and when the projects had started running, when time comes for the claims to be submitted, he would come and tell me that we must expedite the claims because the premier wants those claims to be expedited," Mokoena said.

Mokoena also gave evidence that Zwane had given him a list of 106 contractors to appoint, and that some were allegedly "close" to him.  

READ | State capture inquiry: 'Resign' if you are opposed to my plans, Zwane allegedly told department head

Mokoena told the commission about an exco meeting, chaired by Magashule, where National Treasury said the advance material scheme was "not correct".

He added that exco knew about the financial implications of the scheme. 

Asked what Magashule's attitude was during the meeting, Mokoena said he did not come up with a "conclusive detailed decision about what to do about it, about that item as it was discussed and I think the person came especially for that from the national department of treasury to come and inform the exco in that meeting on that day". 

ANALYSIS | The billion rand housing scheme that paved the way for state capture to come

Mokoena was also asked if he was able to say Zwane definitely knew that the scheme was illegal.

He said: "He knew it was illegal, because the first time when he mentioned it I responded I told him it was illegal so he tried ways to ensure that he convinces me about the legality of the scheme... and the mere fact that he didn't want to inform us about who is the person that advised him, then there is something that he is hiding from us."

Mokoena resigned from the department in December 2011, saying he was under pressure following Magashule's public announcements during the province's Operation Hlasela, that the province would be building more houses, while there was no capacity to do so. 

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