Officials in KZN premier's office granted bail in fraud and corruption case

30 July 2020 - 16:43
By Orrin Singh
Chief financial officer at the office of the KwaZulu-Natal premier, Ziphathe Cibane, climbs into a car outside the Durban magistrate's court. Behind him businesswoman Gugu Kheswa covers her face. They have been implicated in a R24m catering tender investigation, together with seven others.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu Chief financial officer at the office of the KwaZulu-Natal premier, Ziphathe Cibane, climbs into a car outside the Durban magistrate's court. Behind him businesswoman Gugu Kheswa covers her face. They have been implicated in a R24m catering tender investigation, together with seven others.

Four employees in the office of KZN premier Sihle Zikalala have been granted bail on fraud and corruption charges.

The officials, including the CFO, appeared alongside a service provider in the Durban commercial crimes court on Thursday. The charges relate to a host of catering contracts, awarded as far back as the 2012/13 financial year, amounting to about R24m.

The CFO, Ziphathe Cibane, a personal assistant, Nomusa Zakwe, an administrative clerk, Thobelani Makhathini, and a senior administrative clerk, Sithembiso Msomi, and member of a service provider, Gugu Kheswa, were five of nine accused who appeared in court.

The office's supply chain management manager, Nonhlanhla Hlongwane, and three others, who head up companies contracted to the office — Ashley Rose, Ntobimpela Majozi and Sybil Motaung — did not appear for medical reasons.

According to the charge sheet the accused have been charged on a count of fraud and corruption to the tune of about R24m.

It shows:

  • Phumalanga Communications (accused number six), of which Kheswa is a director, is being investigated for R13,682,475.48 — of which all the transactions from 2013-2016 were processed by Zwake and Makhathini and approved by Hlongwa, among others;
  • Roren Engineering (accused number eight), of which Ashley Rose is a director, is being investigated for R1,185,885 — of which all the transactions from 2014-2016 were processed by Zakwe and Makhathini and approved by Hlongwa, among others;
  • Nto's Catering (accused number 10), of which Majozi is a member, is being investigated for R7,992,210.94 — of which all the transactions from 2014-2016 were processed by Zakwe and Makhathini and approved by Hlongwa, among others; and
  • Isidleke Enterprises Pty Ltd (accused number 16), of which Motaung is a director, is being investigated for R467,050 — of which all the transactions from 2014-2016 were processed by Zakwe and approved by Hlongwa.
  • Motaung is also listed as the director of Inala Business Consortium, Set Apart Group and I Dot Q — three companies which were potential suppliers of goods and services to the office of the premier.

The accused are alleged to have “cover quoted”, in that they colluded with one another, along with premier's office officials, and submitted quotes in the names of suppliers that were not in fact trading as separate entities to ensure that in each instance the procurement process was manipulated so that work was granted to Phumalanga Communications, Roren Engineering and Nto's Catering.

During their appearance it was agreed that Zakwe, Makhathini and Msomi would be granted bail of R5,000, while Cibane was granted R10,000 bail and Kheswa granted bail of R20,000.

Cibane, Zwake, Makhathini and Msomi were ordered not to communicate, either directly or indirectly, with any of the witnesses of the demands and acquisitions department in the premier's office.

The case was adjourned to October 2 for the additional accused to appear.

Meanwhile, Zikalala said in a statement that some of the officials had already been placed on precautionary suspension pending the conclusion of the internal disciplinary processes.

“Now that the matter is in the hands of the criminal justice system, we are duty-bound to allow the process to unfold. We, however, wish to reiterate our position that as government we are committed to good and clean governance,” he said.

Zikalala said his office was “fully committed” to running a corruption-free government and would deal with all types of fraud and corruption.

“We are fighting corruption. There simply should be no place for the abuse of the public trust, and wherever such occurs it must be addressed as soon possible,” he said.