Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

A special tribunal is set to hear an urgent preservation order against Kgosi Lekabe, the  former head of the office of the state attorney in Johannesburg, who  recently resigned under a cloud.

 The office of the state attorney is tasked with providing legal services to national and provincial departments.

The government initiated a countrywide investigation into corruption allegations against the office in 2018. Allegations included malpractice and suspected abuse of office towards unlawful ends, among others.

The justice department said at the time scams which had been uncovered included the “non-timely filing of court papers in litigation matters, undue and particularly exorbitant unauthorised out-of-court settlements even in instances where such matters could have been defended on behalf of the state”.

There have also been allegations of apparent collusion between some officials in the state attorney’s office, private legal practitioners and real or fictitious litigants to defraud and conduct other acts of irregular and corrupt activities against the state.

The department of justice, which is now pushing to have  Lekabe’s pension withheld, said on Monday the matter emanated from an investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) into several allegations of irregularities at the office which cost the state as much as R34m. 

Lekabe was alleged to have conspired to obtain a settlement behind the government’s back in late 2019. Reports at the time said the taxpayer was spared paying R34m in damages to a man who had instituted a claim against the police minister.

At the centre of  the application, according to a judgment in the South Gauteng High Court, was the conduct of Lekabe and advocate Hassan Kajee, who until recently was a member of the Johannesburg Bar.

Both were found to have acted in cahoots in settling the case of Ayanda Kunene, who claimed damages after he was shot by a policeman during a hijacking. He was first charged in connection with the hijacking but was later cleared. He  is now a paraplegic.

Judge Raylene Keightley could not find any evidence that Kunene was behind the questionable settlement. But she did find a corrupt relationship between the state's legal representatives Lekabe and Kajee.

Kajee also invoiced the minister’s office for work done at a rate of R66.52 a day for 517 consecutive days, though the matter had been “settled”.

Keightley said it was the first time in her career on the bench she had witnessed “anything like this”.

She said there was an  overwhelming probability that the pair worked together in other cases to scam the state.

The preservation order application is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday at the Booysens Magistrate’s Court in Gauteng.

The department said the special tribunal has been approached for an order to halt the release of Lekabe’s funds from the  Government Employees Pension Fund pending the finalisation of proceedings against him.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za