State capture: Hawks arrest alleged masterminds in R255m Free State asbestos audit scandal

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State Capture commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
State Capture commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Deaan Vivier, Netwerk24
  • The Hawks have arrested two people on charges related to an unlawful R255-million Free State contract for an audit on homes which had asbestos roofs.
  • The contract was found to have yielded "no value for money".
  • One of the companies involved, Blackhead Consulting, has come under scrutiny at the state capture commission for suspicious payments to high-profile politicians and public servants.

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) or Hawks arrested two people on Wednesday in connection with the controversial and unlawful R255-million 2014 asbestos audit contract.

A spokesperson for the Hawks in the Free State confirmed the arrests but would not confirm the identity of the people involved. 

The Hawks made the arrests as part of a multi-disciplinary law enforcement team. An official announcement from the team is expected later this afternoon.

More arrests are expected, according to the spokesperson.

EXPLAINER | What you need to know about the Free State asbestos deal

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi told eNCA earlier on Wednesday that the operation was aimed at arresting seven suspects in total in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State.

There has been little official communication from the Hawks, beyond short statements made to television news reporters.

It is understood that one of the suspects, who has not been officially identified, was taken into custody at his attorney's offices in Rosebank, Johannesburg. 

According to Newzroom Afrika, which is on the ground in Richards Bay, KZN, the Hawks were not successful in arresting one suspect who was only identified as a former government official.

The Hawks are also carrying out search and seizure operations at various business premises in Gauteng. However, no further details are available.

State capture inquiry

Blackhead Consulting CEO Edwin Sodi made his second appearance before the Zondo commission into allegations of state capture this week to give evidence on a handful of suspicious payments to high-profile politicians and government staffers from his company.

This included Deputy State Security Minister Zizi Kodwa, who was the ANC's spokesperson at the time. Sodi claimed the payments were favours for his friends and were not intended to secure contracts. 

Former head of the Free State human settlements department Nthimotse Mokhesi also testified this week before the commission that he received more than R600 000 from Sodi's company.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane previously found that only an estimated R21 million was actually spent on the audit itself.

Journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh wrote in his book Gangster State that former Free State premier and current ANC secretary-general, Ace Magashule, was also believed to have received money from one of the main players in the asbestos deal, Igo Mpambani, who was gunned down in Sandton in 2017.

Mpambani's company, Diamond Hill Trading, and Blackhead Consulting formed a joint venture and subcontracted the audit work to another company.

Myburgh, who was interviewed by Newzroom Afrika, said law enforcement had, in a way, confirmed the content of his book, which faced severe criticism from those implicated at the time it was published last year.

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