Free State asbestos case: Corruption accused Ace Magashule wants list of witnesses who implicated him

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  • Ace Magashule wants a list of the witnesses who implicated him in a R255 million Free State asbestos corruption case.
  • The State said it would consider the request.
  • The case has been postponed to 3 November for pre-trial proceedings.

Suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule has asked the State for a list of witnesses who implicated him in the R255 million Free State asbestos corruption case he faces.

Magashule, controversial businessman Edwin Sodi, former Mangaung mayor Olly Mlamleli, former human settlements head of department Nthimotse Mokhesi and others appeared in the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein on Tuesday.

The court heard that the defence was still dealing with notices the State submitted in terms of Section 212(B) of the Criminal Procedure Act, which usually contain facts that are not in dispute.

The defence lawyers said they would respond to the notices before the accused's next court appearance.

EXPLAINER | Ace Magashule warrant: What you need to know about the Free State asbestos deal

Magashule's advocate, Laurence Hodes, SC, told the court that they requested a list of State witnesses who implicated Magashule and were referred back to the docket.

"We can revisit [the request] closer to the trial," State advocate Johan de Nysschen said. 

"It's quite logic[al] that they will have to read the whole docket, and I don't want to bind myself by five or 10 witnesses." 

The case was postponed to 3 November for pre-trial proceedings.

News24 previously reported that Sodi also intended to lodge two applications - one relating to the admissibility of evidence the Zondo Commission heard about the asbestos case, and another on whether Magashule's former personal assistant, Moroadi Cholota, is a State witness.

READ | Free State asbestos case: Sodi to challenge admissibility of his Zondo Commission testimony

Hodes, who also represents Sodi, explained that Sodi gave testimony before the commission. The defence's argument relates to the admissibility of the testimony because Sodi was compelled to testify, which eviscerated his right to silence. It was made clear that the testimony could not be used against him in a criminal trial, the court heard.

Hodes said the second application related to the State's so-called star witness, Cholota, who was Magashule's assistant when he was the premier of the Free State at the time when the crimes were allegedly committed.

Hodes argued that, while the State placed on record that Cholota was a witness, she had not yet signed a statement that was drafted for her. He said the absence of a signed statement meant that the State had not secured her assistance. The defence had Cholota as a defence witness, Hodes said.

Asbestos tender 

The accused have been charged with fraud, corruption, theft and money laundering, among other charges, related to the R255 million contract for the assessment and removal of asbestos from roofs and/or housing.

It is alleged that, in 2014, two companies were appointed – including Gauteng-based Blackhead Consulting – as service providers to the Department of Human Settlements in the Free State.

READ | Tuition fees, electronic tablets, trip to Cuba: Ace's asbestos alleged 'bonsella'

The two companies allegedly subcontracted two other companies, one of which did the work for R21 million.

The rest of the money was allegedly pocketed by the accused. According to testimony at the Zondo Commission, the asbestos was not removed.

According to the indictment, Magashule's alleged take of the R255 million tender came in the form of school tuition for a daughter, electronic tablets, and R250 000 for the travel expenses of a delegation to Cuba.

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