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Magashule formally charged and released on R200 000 bail

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ANC secretary general and former Free State premier Ace Magashule has been released on R200 000 bail after he appeared briefly in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on 21 charges of corruption and fraud, alternatively theft and money laundering.

The matter was postponed to February 19, 2021 as the prosecution looks to add at least three more accused persons on the chargesheet and to join Magashule with the rest of the accused.

He was ordered to surrender his passport, inform the investigating team if he wishes to travel abroad and not to be in contact with any witnesses, particularly his former secretary Moroadi Cholota with whom he may not, directly or through third parties, make any contact.

This follows the earlier appearance of Nthimotse Mokhesi, 61, former head of department, Free State human settlements; Mahlomola John Matlakala, 42, former director for supply chain management at the human settlements department; Pheagane Edwin Sodi, 47, of Bryanston, Johannesburg, and owner of Blackhead Consulting (Pty); Sello Joseph Radebe, 56, a businessman from Fourways in Johannesburg; Abel Kgotso Manyeki, 38, a businessman from Clubview in Pretoria; Thabane Wiseman Zulu, 53, a former director general at the then national department of human settlements; and Mlamleli, 63, who is also a former mayor of Mangaung.

The seven were also arrested by members of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), the Hawks, in the Free State, Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng.

This is subsequent to an investigation that was initiated by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) which referred the matter to the NPA and the Hawks.

It is alleged that various payments were made by the Free State human settlements department to Diamond Hill Trading 71-Blackhead JV of which Phikolomzi Mpambani and Sodi were the account holders.

This is after the company was appointed by Mokhesi as a service provider on a contract of R255 million.

Mpambani was murdered in Johannesburg in 2017.

It is alleged that in August 2015, Magashule corruptly accepted gratification of R53 550, paid on his request towards the tuition fees of the daughter of a then acting judge from Mpambani.

It is further alleged that in June 2015, Magashule accepted payment of R470 000, paid on his request to M – TAG Systems for the acquisition of 200 electronic tablets from Mpambani.

Furthermore, it is alleged that in June 2015, Magashule accepted a payment of R30 000, paid on his request to SWC Nkate from Mpambani.

Between November 2015 and January 2016, a payment of R 250 000, on his request, was made by Mpambani to Astra Travel towards travel expenses of a delegation to Cuba.

It is further alleged that Magashule failed to report corrupt transactions in contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004.

This is part of a criminal investigation by the Free State members of the Hawks, the Free State Office of the DPP and other NPA like the SCCU and the AFU into allegations of fraud to the value of R255 million that was committed in the appointment of Blackhead Consultants for the “assessment and removal of asbestos roofs and/or housing”.

The investigations are complete not only for Magashule but all the 13 accused. The NPA said at least three more suspects will be arrested and added to the charge.

On the next court appearance the matter will be transferred to the High Court because the investigations are done and we are ready for trial.

OUT IN FULL FORCE . . . Part of the crowds of over 3 000 that thronged the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court in support of ANC secretary general Ace Magashule

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Masks no longer mandatory when outdoors

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South Africans will no longer be required to wear masks while outdoors, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday night when he gave an update on national efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The wearing of masks indoors however remains mandatory.

“As before, it is mandatory to wear a cloth mask or similar covering over the nose and mouth when in public indoor spaces,” said Ramaphosa in a televised address.

“However, a mask is not required when outdoors,” he added.

“This means that we still need to wear masks when in shops, malls, offices, factories, taxes, buses, trains or any other indoor public space.

“But we do not need to wear masks when walking on the street or in an open space, when exercising outdoors or when attending an outdoor gathering.”

The president said after four waves of infection, fewer people are becoming severely ill and requiring hospitalisation.

He said there are far fewer deaths than before.

“Our scientists tell us that this is mainly because some 60 to 80 percent of the population has some form of immunity to the virus, either from previous infection or vaccination . . . we are now ready to enter a new phase in our management of the pandemic,” said Ramaphosa.

About 48 percent of all adults are believed to have received at least one vaccine dose.

Further to that, both indoor and outdoor venues can now take up to 50 percent of their capacity provided that the criteria for entrance are proof of vaccination or a COVID-19 test not older than 72 hours.

“But where there is no provision for proof of vaccination or a COVID test, then the current upper limit will remain – of 1 000 people indoors and 2 000 people outdoors,” he explained.

This change to the restrictions on gatherings, according the president, will be of great benefit to the sporting, cultural, entertainment and events industries, among others.

The maximum number of people permitted at a funeral will increase from 100 to 200.

However, night vigils as well as after-funeral and ‘after-tears’ gatherings are still not allowed.

The regulations on social distancing are also being changed, requiring that a space of one metre is maintained between persons in all settings except schools.

There are also changes to the regulations on international travel.

Travellers entering South Africa will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours.

All unvaccinated travellers entering the country who want to be vaccinated will be offered a vaccination.

All measures are taking effect from this Wednesday.

Ramaphosa said in deciding which restrictions to ease and which to keep in place, they  also looked to the experiences of other countries, including those where the complete lifting of restrictions has been followed by a surge in infections and deaths.

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Man gets six life terms for raping own daughter

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A 36-year-old man from Clocolan has been sentenced to six life terms by the Free State High Court after he was found guilty of raping his 14-year-old daughter.

In a statement, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said Judge Pina Mathebula sentenced the father, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his daughter, for raping her six times between May and July 2021.

“The victim was staying with the accused, his wife, who is her stepmother, and two other siblings,” read part of the statement issued by NPA regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping on Thursday.

“In May 2021, the accused told his wife that his late brother told him in a dream ‘to get rid of a tokoloshe that was inside the victim’. The very same night of the alleged dream, the accused raped the victim. The last rape incident took place on 25 July 2021,” added the statement.

The court, sitting in Ladybrand, heard that the wife tried to reprimand him but he assaulted her.

As if not enough, he overpowered and raped the victim, despite her cries and his wife’s reprimands.

He threatened to kill both of them if they were to tell anyone of what he did.

A day later, the accused’s sister visited the family and the wife told her what the husband had done to the child.

The sister reported his brother to the police and he was arrested.

In aggravation, state prosecutor Advocate Moipone Moroka submitted a victim impact report facilitated by Bulelani Mothabeng in which the victim said that she thanks her aunt for coming to her rescue because if it was not for her, she would still be her father’s sex slave.

Moroka further argued that the scourge of violence against women and children has reached an alarming proportion and can be described as a pandemic.

“What aggravates the matter is that the father raped his own daughter multiple times over a period of three months and this means he had ample opportunity to reflect on his actions, but he continued betraying the trust his daughter had in him,” said Moroka.

The father was sentenced to six life sentences for rape and two years for assault and the sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

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Premier mourns journalist

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Premier Sisi Ntombela has described the late SABC journalist Thabo Katsande as a disciplined, dedicated and hardworking man.

She said this in her special tribute to Katsande, who was based in Bloemfontein, during a memorial service held at the Rose Hall at the Mangaung Metropolitan offices on Thursday.

The journalist passed away at a Pretoria hospital last Saturday following a short illness.

“The Thabo I knew was focused on his work,” said an emotional Ntombela.

“The Thabo I knew was passionate about his trade and wanted to see journalism, particularly in the Free State, grow in leaps and bounds,” she added.

The premier took the opportunity to urge people to value their work and strive to improve their communities as the province is faced with a high unemployment rate.

“We live in an era where some people do not value their jobs . . . and a sense of entitlement has consumed them. Thabo’s work ethic was admirable,” she pointed out.

Ntombela described Katsande as a fearless and fair journalist who showed both the good and the bad through his work.

“Through his work, Thabo helped us to tell . . . the Free State story,” she said.

“He captured the minds of the people with the way he told our stories, the good and the bad.

“The beautiful and the not so beautiful – Thabo told it all, without fear or favour.

“The media fraternity has lost a giant and . . . it will be poorer without him.

“No longer shall we see that charismatic man running around with a camera looking for that perfect shot.”

Katsande will be laid to rest in Bluemgumbosch, eastern Free State, this Saturday.

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