Picture: 123RF/ALLAN SWART
Picture: 123RF/ALLAN SWART

Nine people who allegedly colluded in tender corruption worth about R75m in Nelson Mandela Bay appeared in court on fraud, money-laundering and corruption charges, after their arrests on Friday.

The alleged syndicate appeared in the Port Elizabeth magistrate's court, where they also faced charges of contravening the Municipal Finance Management Act.

The state alleged that some of the accused and late Nelson Mandela metro councillor Mongameli Bobani, as well as other political office bearers “wielded political power” within the metro and were able to influence decision-making in the procurement process.

Bobani succumbed to Covid-19 last week.

“Between 2013 and 2015, the nine operated as a syndicate to fraudulently and corruptly benefit specific suppliers or consultants to the prejudice of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality and the Treasury in the amount of approximately R73m,” said National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Sipho Ngwema.

The accused — identified as Mhleleli Mlungisi Tshamase, Walter Shaidi, Fareed Fakir, Rukaard Abrahams, Andrea Joleen Wessels, Nadia Gerwel, Dawid Eduard Le Roux, Zandisile Qupe and Thando Ngcolomba — were released on bail of between R5,000 and R100,000. The state did not oppose bail as the accused did not pose a flight risk.

They were charged together with Fakir’s companies Heerkos Projects, Jarami and Erastyle; Abrahams’ Dankovista, Wessels’s Zeranza 299 and Le Roux’s Le Roux Inc.

Officials 'abused their positions'

“Generally, the individual accused played various roles within the syndicate. It is alleged that Qupe, Ngcolomba and the late Bobani, political office bearers, wielded political power within the Nelson Mandela metro structures and used their positions to control decision-making in the procurement processes,” Ngwema said.

“They obtained the co-operation of specific individuals and influenced appointments in critical municipal positions as well as the appointment of people and entities as suppliers or consultants who were willing to advance the interests of the syndicate.

“It is alleged Tshamase, Shaidi and Gerwel were municipal officials who abused their positions to manage the internal Nelson Mandela metro processes in ways designed to ensure the irregular appointment of Heerkos Projects, Jarami, Erastyle (all Fakir’s companies) and Le Roux Inc (Le Roux’s company) as suppliers or consultants, and consequently paid large amounts into the companies’ respective bank accounts,” Ngwema said.

“It is alleged Fakir, and the entities under his control as well as Le Roux and his entity, played a central role as the suppliers and consultants who were irregularly and/or fraudulently awarded contracts and received payments from the Nelson Mandela metro.

“It is alleged Abrahams and Wessels, with their respective entities Dankovista and Zeranza 299, were members of the syndicate in private business who acted as professional launderers,” Ngwema said. “They accepted payments from Fakir’s companies, and from each other, partly for themselves and for onward distribution to other syndicate members.”

More charges are expected to be added before the matter is referred for prosecution in the high court.

The matter was remanded until March 2021 for the state to seek authorisation from the national director of public prosecutions to prosecute in the high court on charges of racketeering.

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