Senior officials charged for trying to 'bribe' prosecutor with whisky and cash

31 March 2021 - 16:29 By shonisani tshikalange
The NPA's acting head in Mpumalanga allegedly handed over a boxed 18-year-old bottle of whisky to a prosecutor to make a case go away. Stock photo.
The NPA's acting head in Mpumalanga allegedly handed over a boxed 18-year-old bottle of whisky to a prosecutor to make a case go away. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Donato Fiorentino

Mpumalanga's acting National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss, a senior government official and Hawks unit commander appeared in court on corruption charges on Wednesday.

Their bail application will continue in the Pretoria magistrate's court on Thursday after the state’s application for a seven-day postponement was refused on Wednesday.

Mpumalanga human settlements department head Kebone Masange, Hawks unit commander of serious corruption investigation Lt-Col Ayanda Plaatje and Mpumalanga acting director of public prosecutions Matric Luphondo appeared in court on charges of corruption on Wednesday.

The three allegedly colluded to bribe a prosecutor to withdraw charges faced by Masange for contravening the Immigration Act and fraud.

Masange was detained by home affairs and subsequently arrested by the police in 2020 for allegedly being in the country illegally and using fraudulent documents which earned him a top position at the department.

Senior state advocate in the organised crime unit of the office of the Gauteng director of public prosecutions Andrew Mphaga, who was assigned to prosecute Masanga's case, was approached by the accused to withdraw the case.

It is alleged that on the March 23 Luphondo handed the prosecutor an 18-year-old bottle of Glenfiddich whisky in its box worth R1,550. Also inside the box was R5,000 in cash and Luphondo allegedly said there was more where that came from.

The state further alleges that on March 27, Plaatje telephoned Mphaga and asked to meet him at the R21 on-ramp/Nelson Mandela Road off-ramp at Fountains, where R28,000 in cash was handed to the advocate.

The state will oppose bail and said the security of the main witness was compromised.

“We have information that the security of the main witness is under threat. The witness has been followed about, even when he went to a restaurant he was followed. We have information that his information has been sought and found. Clearly under these circumstances the witness is under threat,” said state prosecutor advocate Molatlhwa Mashuga.

The state said it was busy assessing and ensuring the security of the witness.

NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said the relevant labour processes has been initiated against Luphondo.

“While the NPA is disappointed that any of its officials is entangled in such allegations in conflict with our new values, which are anchored on high ethical conduct, integrity and credibility we take pride in the men and women who are resolute in defending our new vision,” Ngwema said.

“It is encouraging that there were prosecutors and investigators who acted swiftly and with honesty and strong moral principles in defence of our values and the law.”

Hawks spokesperson Col Katlego Mogale said cases being handled by the accused colonel would be redistributed to other members.

“I believe that once they get granted bail, internally our processes will have started. Some of the cases that the colonel was in charge of will be redistributed to other members to take care of,” she said.

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