State woes continue in Gumede graft trial

Sandile Ngcobo. Picture: Leon Lestrade

Sandile Ngcobo. Picture: Leon Lestrade

Published Feb 28, 2024


Durban — A witness who testified that an urgent instruction to draft tender award letters to four of the companies accused in the R300 million Durban Solid Waste (DSW) corruption, fraud and money laundering trial came from the former deputy head of Supply Chain Management, could not be cross-examined on her evidence by defence counsels due to outstanding documents in relation to her evidence.

The eThekwini employee led evidence on Tuesday in the Durban High Court in the trial against former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede, 17 others, and four companies who were the main contractors in the DSW tender.

Gumede and her co-accused face more than 2 000 charges, including conspiracy to commit corruption, corruption, fraud, money laundering, racketeering, contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act, and contravention of the Municipal Systems Act, amounting to more than R300m, in relation to a DSW tender.

The State alleges that Gumede, Mondli Mthembu (an executive councillor), Sipho Nzuza (former city manager), Robert Abbu (who was the deputy head at DSW), and Sandile Ngcobo (the former deputy head of Supply Chain Management), as well as Nzuza’s wife, Bagcinile, actively associated themselves with the common purpose of working together to manipulate the procurement process.

According to the witness, who had been employed as an administrator and verifier attached to tenders and contracts, she drafted the tender award letters for Ilanga LaMahlase Pty (Ltd), Uzuzinekele trading 31 CC, Omphile Thabanga Projects and El Shaddai Holdings CC.

Accused Mzwandile Dlula is the sole director of Ilanga LaMahlase Pty (Ltd), Zithulele Mkhize is the sole member of Uzuzinekele trading 31 CC, while husband and wife Bongani and Khoboso Dlomo are the directors of Omphile Thabanga Projects, and accused Prabagaran Pariah is the sole member of El Shaddai Holdings CC.

The witness told the court she drafted the letters on instruction from her supervisor. She said the supervisor emailed her draft decisions from the Bid Adjudication Committee which she used to draft the letters on December 28, 2017.

The witness took the court through the process using the email with the letters she had sent to her supervisor once she had drafted them.

She was also handed the letters she had drafted with two signatures at the bottom.

“The one signature belongs to SC Nzuza, I don’t know the other. The information that is in the letters I got from my supervisor.

“After I wrote the letters I sent them to her but when I did, they did not have the two signatures on them,” said the witness.

Reading the email sent to her supervisor with the letters attached, the witness said: “Hi Mphathi (supervisor) please see attached urgently requested by deputy head Sandile Ngcobo.”

She told the court her supervisor had told her verbally to urgently draft the letters as per Ngcobo’s request, adding that she also got the sense that it was urgent as her supervisor had asked her “to do the letters which was not my duty at that time”.

Contention in the evidence began when counsel for the accused asked that the State provide the information which the witness said she had been emailed to her by her supervisor to use in drafting the letters.

Counsel for the accused also objected to the tender award letters being handed in as exhibits, since the witness had testified that she had drafted unsigned letters but the ones before the court were signed.

State prosecutor Bongiwe Mbambo handed the witness an email which the employee confirmed was sent to her from her supervisor, which read “FYI”, with the attachment reading “draft Bid Adjudication Committee decisions”.

She directed the accuseds’ counsel to a document already in the evidence bundle handed to all counsel at the start of the trial. However, this document read “Bid Adjudication Committee decisions”.

Advocate Jimmy Howse, representing Ngcobo, pointed out that this document was incomplete adding that it began on page 3.

Advocate Willie Lombard, representing accused No 13, Zithulele Mkhize, and No 14, his company Uzuzinekele Trading 31cc, said: “The document says Bid Adjudication Committee decisions. The witness testified about draft Bid Adjudication Committee decisions – these two are not the same, there’s no causal link to the email sent by the supervisor to the witness.”

Judge Sharmaine Balton stood the witness down as she could not be cross-examined until the relevant documents were made available.

The trial continues.

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