Ace & the asbestos case: 6 stories you need to read ahead of his court appearance

13 November 2020 - 06:30
By kyle zeeman AND Kyle Zeeman
ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule is set to appear at the Bloemfontein high court on Friday.
Image: Masi Losi ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule is set to appear at the Bloemfontein high court on Friday.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule is expected to appear at the Bloemfontein high court on Friday after a warrant of arrest was issued for him.

The warrant is in connection with a controversial R255m asbestos eradication tender in the Free State. The matter has already seen seven people arrested, including businessman Edwin Sodi.

“Yes, we can confirm the warrant has been issued. The J50 warrant was signed by the DPP [director of public prosecutions] in the Free State,” Hawks Free State spokesperson Capt Lynda Steyn told TimesLIVE.

It comes just weeks after Magashule instructed his lawyers to contact the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to verify rumours about an arrest warrant for him.

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As he prepares to formally hand himself over and appear in court, here are six stories you should read to catch up on the case:

Seven arrested

Businessman Edwin Sodi and six other accused involved in an allegedly corrupt R255m asbestos audit project in the Free State were arrested last month.

They appeared in the Bloemfontein high court, where they were granted bail and their case postponed to November 11. This week it was postponed again.

The seven accused and their five companies face 60 charges which include corruption, fraud, money laundering, contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (Precca) and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), relating to the R255m project from 2014.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Sipho Ngwema told TimesLIVE three other people were expected to be arrested soon

Rumours of an arrest warrant

Shortly after the seven accused appeared in court, rumours began to swirl that Magashule may be arrested.

Magashule was premier and ANC chairperson in the province at the time the tender was issued.

He told TimesLIVE that neither he nor his lawyers had been formally told of any plans to arrest him.

“For now, my lawyers will be in touch with the NPA so we can verify this. For now, I'm saying there is no need for any panic - no need for any Hollywood [style of arrest] because I'm a law-abiding citizen. I have not done anything that is wrong, according to me, and unlawful,” he said.

When asked about the case against him, he said: “Apparently it is that Estina [dairy farm] thing that I was never involved in.”

The arrest warrant came but he 'isn't worried'

Responding to news of the arrest warrant this week, Magashule said he was “not worried” and had expected the warrant for his arrest to be issued.

“I will talk to my lawyers this afternoon. It [the threat of arrest] has been all the time, so I’m not worried at all. The struggle continues,” Magashule said.

The ANC says he won't step aside - for now

The ANC said on Wednesday that Magashule will not step aside while he waits to appear in court.

The party's deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte and treasurer-general Paul Mashatile made the announcement after a meeting between Magashule and other top six officials, including President Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy David Mabuza.

The ANC adopted a resolution that leaders facing legal battles should be excluded from political activity, at its national conference in 2017.

But Mashatile said the ANC national executive committee was still finalising its framework on dealing with its members facing allegations of wrongdoing.

What to know if you're planning to attend his court appearance

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe added that Magashule's supporters were free to attend his court appearance, but should not do so under the guise of representing the party.

In a statement the party also said that Magashule had asked that no individuals or group march in support of him, or print posters, T-shirts and placards bearing his name.

Case against seven accused postponed

Meanwhile, the case against the seven arrested earlier was postponed to February next year.

It came as Magashule and two others were expected to be added as co-accused in the matter.