Third suspect apprehended in R62m illegal graveyard tender

The Hawks have apprehended a third suspect in the R62-million cemetery fencing contract under the Free State’s Mafube local municipality.

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation revealed that a Zimbabwean, Fortune Thandazile Nkomo, was also involved in the tender saga.

The Hawks discovered in 2023 that Andrew Hlubi had unlawfully given the contract to Malanda Construction because of his beneficial relationship with the owner, Molise John Letsipa, when they were tailgating him.

As a result, at least R166 000 in municipal funds were not accounted for.

Huge financial loss

Nkomo appeared alongside Hlubi and Letsipa at the Mafube magistrate’s court this week and was released on R15 000 bail.

Spokesman for the Free State Hawks, Fikiswa Matoti, claimed that the three were involved in illegal bidding, which resulted in a huge financial loss for the municipality after Malanda Construction failed to finish the project for which it had submitted large-scale invoices.

According to reports, the Mafube local municipality advertised a tender in December 2015 for the fencing of cemeteries in Cornelia, Villiers, Frankfort, and Tweeling.

“Only two companies tendered for the fencing. All bids committees sat and recommended that the tender be re-advertised as the municipality did not have funds,” said Matoti.

She claimed that the municipal manager continued to select the construction company of their choice despite the committee’s recommendations.

Malanda misled the bid committee

The company bid a total of R62-million for the fencing of graveyards in the four towns; however, only Cornelia was fenced.

Malanda Construction is also accused of deceiving the committee by falsely representing to it that the company was part of a joint venture with other businesses, a claim that was later disproven.

“The company invoiced the municipality an amount of R11-million for the fencing done in Cornelia,” said Matoti.

“A payment of R30 000 was then paid to Malanda Construction. The matter was reported to the Hawks’ serious corruption investigation team based in Bethlehem.”

Hlubi and Letsipa handed themselves over to the police in November and were released on R100 000 bail each after appearing at the Cornelia magistrate’s court.

The three parties will make another appearance on February 23 at the Bethlehem Regional Court, where the case has been escalated.

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