Hawks hover over Limpopo premier
LIMPOPO premier Cassel Mathale's government is being investigated for alleged fraud and corruption running into hundreds of millions of rands.
A group of disgruntled businessmen have given the authorities a dossier on "irregular tenders" allegedly handed out in the province.
The Forum of Limpopo Entrepreneurs also want Mathale - a key ally of ANC Youth League Presi-dent Julius Malema - to be investigated amid claims that the premier influenced tenders in various provincial departments.
The case has been allocated to the Anti-Corruption Task Team, which comprises the Hawks, the Special Investigating Unit, the Asset Forfeiture Unit and the National Prosecuting Authority.
The dossier was delivered to the SIU and the Hawks offices by the forum and trade union Cosatu last month.
A spokesman for the anti-corruption task team confirmed receipt of the dossier and said: "The investigation is under way, although in the early stages."
The investigation centres on contracts awarded by the province's health and roads and transport departments, which allegedly did not go out to tender.
In the health department alone, contracts totalling R314-million are under the spotlight, with the biggest being a R167-million tender for pharmaceutical equipment.
One of the companies mentioned in the dossier is Arandi Trading Enterprises, which belongs to Malema's cousin Tshepo Malema.
Attention was focused on Tshepo Malema's company after media reports that it received R44-million to supply hospital "referral forms".
Tshepo has previously defended the contract, saying it was above board.
The secretary of the Limpopo entrepreneurs' forum, Siviko Mabunda, confirmed that its members had already been interviewed by the Hawks in relation to the dossier.
"We handed over a list of companies and their directors and the tenders that they got in a corrupt manner ... the Hawks came and interviewed us [and] we are happy about the progress. It means they are following up on the case," he said.
The forum also raised concerns about tenders in the roads department being awarded to a construction company owned by Mathale's business partner, Selby Manthata.
Mabunda said: "We want to know why Manthata is getting all the tenders from the department of roads and transport ..."
Manthata, who has admitted to being the premier's business partner, has declined to comment on Mabunda's allegations.
Hawks spokesman McIntosh Polela confirmed the allegations of fraud and corruption were being investigated. "The case has to do with allegations of fraud and corruption, especially within the departments of health and transport," Polela said.
"We are looking into the allegations to get more information to decide how we move forward."
The Hawks are already probing Julius Malema's business and financial interests.
The youth league president has admitted that his Ratanang Family Trust has shares in On-Point Engineering, a company which effectively decides on the awarding of contracts by Limpopo's roads and transport department.
Mathale's spokesman, Tebatso Mabitsela, said the premier was aware of the investigation, and welcomed any probe into corruption. However, he denied that his boss manipulated the awarding of tenders.
"Political office bearers don't have influence over the awarding of tenders ... " he said.
And it was unfair to single out Manthata's firm when other companies were doing business with the Limpopo government, Mabitsela said.
"We are dealing with many service providers. We wonder why people single out certain individuals ... There is no one who flouts tendering procedures."