Ace Magashule's former PA in the Free State has turned state witness in his corruption case

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Ace Magashule appears at the Bloemfontein Magistrate Court. (Frikkie Kapp, Gallo Images)
Ace Magashule appears at the Bloemfontein Magistrate Court. (Frikkie Kapp, Gallo Images)
  • ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule has been granted bail of R200 000.
  • He has been charged in connection with the R255 million asbestos audit corruption case.
  • The court also heard that his former personal assistant has turned state witness. 

Ace Magashule's former personal assistant has turned state witness in the R255 million asbestos audit corruption case in which the former Free State Premier is an accused.

Magashule stood in the dock of the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Friday morning where he heard he has been charged with 21 counts of fraud, corruption, and money laundering.

Magashule appeared relaxed throughout the court appearance and was backed by supporters including ANC NEC member Tony Yengeni, who was sitting in front of the gallery.

It was placed on record that the State would not oppose bail and that the charges faced by Magashule fall under schedule five, meaning that the onus rested on him to prove that it was in the interest of justice to permit his release on bail.

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

Magashule’s defence advocate, Laurance Hodes, SC, entered an affidavit into court records, and told the court that the ANC secretary-general - who earns R133 000 a month as an employee of the governing party - would be able to afford bail of R20 000.

Hodes further argued that:

  • Magashule was not a flight risk and that his passport was expired;
  • That he would not interfere with witnesses or the investigation;
  • He has cooperated with law enforcement since the warrant of arrest was issued; and
  • That he had movable assets worth around R700 000 and fixed property registered in his name.

While state prosecutor, advocate Johan de Nysschen agreed that it was in the interest of justice to release Magashule on bail and that he met the requirements, he argued that bail should be set at R250 000 given the seriousness of the alleged crimes committed.

De Nysschen also dropped a bombshell when he asked that a bail condition be imposed: that Magashue should not make contact with a witness for the State, his former personal assistant, Moroadi Cholota.

Cholota was Magashule's assistant when he was the premier of the Free State.

She has also testified at the Zondo commission.

The State said another condition should be that Magashule must approach the investigating officer before applying for a new passport.

De Nysschen also broke down the charges faced by Magashule which include;

  • Eight counts of fraud;
  • Five charges of corruption; and
  • Eight counts of money laundering.

Further charges may be added.

Before handing down his judgment, Magistrate Amos Moos highlighted that Magashule was not brought to court in shackles as is common practice in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court.

De Nysschen chalked it down to the fact that there was cooperation as Magashule handed himself over after the warrant of arrest was issued.

Moos granted Magashule bail of R200 000 but stressed that he came to his decision by assessing the facts before him, and was not swayed by the position that Magashule holds in society.

Moos found that Magashule would not attempt to evade his trial, interfere with witnesses, or that his release would undermine the criminal justice system or disturb public order and peace.

He further said that bail is not a precursory punishment and that all accused are to be treated as innocent until proven guilty.

Moos also imposed the bail conditions asked for by the State.

The matter has been postponed to 19 February where Magashule will join his other co-accused in the dock.

READ | WANTED! Hawks secure arrest warrant for Ace Magashule in R255m asbestos corruption probe

Magashule’s co-accused include former Mangaung mayor Olly Mlamleli, businessman Edwin Sodi, and former human settlements head of department Nthimotse Mokhesi.

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

The two companies then 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 and despite millions being used on the project, the asbestos had still not been removed, according to testimony at the state capture commission of inquiry.

According to a statement by the National Prosecuting Authority, the matter is trial ready and will be transferred to the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein at the next appearance in February.

It said the postponement was necessary as more accused are expected to be added to the charge sheet.

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