Hawks make first arrests in Free State asbestos audit scandal, Newsline

CAPE TOWN, September 30 – The Hawks have arrested five people, including Free State government officials, in connection with the asbestos audit scandal in the province, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said on Wednesday.

The arrests took place in Gauteng and the Free State late on Wednesday morning, NPA spokesman Sipho Ngwenya said.

He declined to mention the names of the suspects, who will only appear in court on Friday.

The arrests follow testimony in recent weeks before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture on the R255 million (US$15 million) audit deal that played out in 2014.

The arrests are the first to flow from testimony before the commission probing the rent-seeking scandal that has bled the state of billions of rands.

A special presidential proclamation has paved the way for the prosecuting authorities to have direct access to evidence before the commission.

The proclamation was issued as president Cyril Ramaphosa found himself under increasing pressure to act on corruption as evidence emerged that wide-scale graft was continuing as South Africa embarked on the emergency procurement of material to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The asbestos case testimony embroiled former Free State premier Ace Magashule, the current secretary general of the ANC.

The complex deal was meant to see the removal of hazardous asbestos from Free State properties, but this was never done.

– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Desiree Erasmus