State capture inquiry: Testimony of former Free State human settlements boss postponed

  • The testimony of the former head of the Department of Human Settlements in the Free State, Nthimose Mokhesi, has been postponed.  
  • Mokhesi has been implicated in a controversial multi-million rand contract for an asbestos audit project.  
  • His new legal representative says he has been co-operating with the commission, but his new team needs to be brought up to speed.

Chairperson of the state capture commission of inquiry, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has granted the former head of the department of human settlements in the Free State, Nthimose Mokhesi, his request for a postponement of his evidence.

Mokhesi has been implicated in the awarding of a controversial R255 million contract for an asbestos audit project.

The contract was secured by a joint venture between engineering consultancy firm Blackhead Consulting and Diamond Hill Trading 71 in 2014.

Mokhesi’s legal representative, Van Rhyn Fouche, said he was not “running away” from the commission and was willing to cooperate.

“He filed two affidavits – one on request of the commission after his first affidavit.

“However, he was represented by [the] state attorney of Bloemfontein up until the end of June. There were some signs they might withdraw as attorneys for Mr Mokhesi and that was only confirmed in a letter on 17 July. That letter was addressed to his counsel at that stage.

“It came to his attention on the 20th July that the state attorney was definitely withdrawing as his attorneys of record,” he said.

Fouche said on 27 July, the commission’s investigator sent Mokhesi an email notifying him of his appearance.

He said Mokhesi obtained a legal representative. 

READ | State capture: The evidence on Magashule and co – what investigators know about R255m kickbacks

“At the moment, Chairman, I am basically playing as a substitute player in the last minute of this game. I am not in a position to give any sound legal advice at the moment to Mr Mokhesi. I am not aware of any of the background of this whole investigation,” he said.

“I consulted only in morning with Mr Mokhesi and he told me that in his view he would like Mr Hellens SC to remain on brief.

“In his view Mr Hellens is the person that assisted him throughout in drafting the affidavit. He is the senior counsel with the knowledge at the moment. The current legal team simply does not have legal knowledge to assist him sufficiently. He is the HOD of the department. It is important evidence that won’t be led by him. He is not running, chairperson. He is more than willing to testify.”

Fouche said what they gathered from the lengthening opening statement form head of the commission’s legal team, advocate Paul Pretorius, on Tuesday was that there were plenty of documents involved.

However, Pretorius said Mokhesi was an important witness and should account for the role he played as an accounting officer with respect to the project.

“In those circumstances, Chair, it is important that we make every effort to act early toward him so that he may fairly account for the questions that need to be put to him for his role as an accounting officer in this matter.”

On Tuesday, during his lengthy opening, Pretorius told Zondo that investigators of the commission uncovered a payment made to Mokhesi for the purchase of property. The payment was made by Blackhead Consulting director Edwin Sodi.

READ | Zondo commission: Businessman confirms document linking Magashule to kickbacks was created on his PC

Mokhesi, who signed off on the asbestos contract, is believed to be represented by the initial TM in a “cost of business schedule” spreadsheet.

“So, an amount of R650 000 is paid via a trust through attorneys which is used to buy a property in which, according to investigators, it is where Mokhesi lives but the explanation of Mokhesi says this was a joint business venture [and] he and Sodi became friends and decided to invest in a property and there is an agreement which shows how the income from rentals should be divided, and whether this is all genuine or not can be investigated,” said Pretorius.

“What is significant here is that a person involved in a grant of a tender of R250 million, the accounting officer, cannot be in business with the recipient.”

In a separate matter, Zondo dismissed an application from former Treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile to cross-examine Des van Rooyen.

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