The names of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi have been dragged into a high-profile R5 million bribery and murder investigation currently playing out in the Bloemfontein High Court, in the Free State.
Eight men – among them a Bloemfontein businessman, police officers, a soldier and a lawyer – are facing a raft of charges, including murder, conspiracy to murder and defeating the ends of justice, for the death of businessman Louis Siemens in May last year.
On the eve of the trial, which started on Monday and is set down to continue until the end of November, a letter classified as “top secret” and authored by provincial counter-intelligence – a unit of the police’s crime intelligence division – revealed the extent of the probe into high-level corruption in the province.
The confidential letter, which City Press has seen, cites “the former provincial premier and a serving national minister” as being persons of interest in the investigation into Siemens’ assassination.
Law enforcement sources have told City Press that the former premier and minister cited in the letter are Magashule and Motsoaledi.
Both their names also appear in affidavits deposed to by accused parties and witnesses as part of the probe into the R5 million bribery scandal, which led to the hit on Siemens.
In an affidavit signed in September, the provincial health department’s former legal services director, Justice Finger, claimed he had been told by a friend that Magashule had been paid R5 million to facilitate the approval of a licence for CityMed Day Hospital – of which Siemens was chief executive officer and shareholder.
Bloemfontein businessman Stanley Bakili, who is accused of masterminding Siemens’ murder, has also claimed in a sworn statement that he bribed Motsoaledi, who was health minister at the time, with R154 000. The alleged bribe was to facilitate the expeditious approval of Siemens’ private hospital licence application for the CityMed hospital. Motsoaledi has vehemently denied the allegations, saying he remains opposed to corruption and that he will cooperate with investigators.
The voluminous indictment, seen by City Press, also shows that Bakili told a convicted murderer – who has turned state witness in the case – that if he agreed not to testify against him and his co-accused, “Ace” would give him R500 000.
In the letter classified by counter intelligence and dated August 14, national crime intelligence boss Lieutenant-General Peter Jacobs is requested to conduct a threat assessment on Advocate Johan de Nysschen, the prosecutor handling Siemens’ case.
The letter, penned by a high-ranking official, mentions that De Nysschen’s cats were killed when they ate meat laced with poison. The meat was meant for his caged dogs. It reads in part as follows:
“Advocate Johan M de Nysschen’s dogs were targeted at his home whereby meat marinated with poison was thrown in his yard. It was eaten by his two cats, who died immediately, as the dogs are in a closet during the day and let loose only at night.
“A synopsis of the situation is that the matter involves senior people in government, a current serving national minister, the former provincial premier, MECs of health and senior managers in the same department.
“I plead for your immediate intervention in the murder case that has been turned into a political football as it involves the brother of a senior police officer (Major General) who is also a captain … Quite a number of police officers seem to have been conspirators working in cahoots with senior politicians.
“My appeal is for the speedy intervention in this matter now that a lot of senior police officers and politicians are facing imminent arrest in the takedown.”
A senior police officer told City Press this week that, as a result of the letter to Jacobs, “earlier this week, crime intelligence recommended that an urgent security assessment be conducted on De Nysschen and that he be provided with security”.
When contacted for comment on Thursday, Magashule chose to issue a public statement rather than answer questions from City Press. In his statement, he described the intelligence report as fake news “that is being peddled against me in order to tarnish my dignity and reputation in a coordinated and concerted effort”.
Magashule said he was appalled that “state resources are being used for factional political battles when they are supposed to be used in the fight against crime”, and vowed not to take this matter “lying down”.
He added that he had instructed his attorneys to lodge a complaint with the police’s top brass and the office of the inspector-general of intelligence.
HOW IT WENT DOWN
Bakili is standing trial alongside Captain Moeketsi Lesia, the commander of Bayswater police station, and two of his underlings, constables Mogoera Molebatsi and Kagiso Chabane.
Other accused persons include Karabo Tau, a disbarred advocate in whose car a murder weapon was allegedly found; a 36-year-old IT technician, Sizwe Mpati; and a 29-year-old paratrooper in the SA National Defence Force’s reconnaissance unit, Clive Tshivenga.
The hit on Siemens was carried out in broad daylight in the basement parking lot of Preller Square Shopping Centre. Xolisile Botha Mbebeto confessed to pulling the trigger and is currently serving 22 years’ jail time in a Kimberley prison. He has since turned state witness against the eight men, who have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
DEATH THREATS FROM PRISON
Mbebeto has received death threats, allegedly from Bakili, in prison. In the docket, police allege that Bakili sent a handwritten letter to Mbebeto in which he threatened to kill his girlfriend and daughter if Mbebeto testified against the eight men.
In the letter, contained in the docket, Bakili allegedly told Mbebeto: “I want to warn you not to do this as we will get hold of you no matter which prison you are in.”
As part of his warning to Mbebeto not to testify against them, Bakili told him not to be “stupid and do this [testify] because you will not get anything”.
Bakili added: “Ace says that he will give you 500K if you keep your mouth shut and we get out of this place. The choice is yours.”
The state’s case is that Bakili received more than R5 million in bribes from Siemens. The money was meant to facilitate the speedy approval of a new licence for the expansion of Siemens’ CityMed Day Hospital.
Bakili had allegedly told Siemens that the R5 million was going to be paid to Magashule to facilitate the acquisition of the hospital licence. Siemens had, in turn, also promised Bakili shares worth over R1 million if the deal went through.
The indictment shows that Matthews Rantso, a Bloemfontein businessman from whom Siemens solicited technical assistance on how to put together the application for the licence approval, had introduced Bakili and Siemens to Finger.
In his affidavit, Finger stated that he agreed to help after he was promised shares in Bakili’s business ventures, which he hoped to join after he retired from public service.
Finger’s affidavit shows that relations between him and Bakili became strained after he was informed by Rantso that Bakili had received R5 million from Siemens which went towards paying “former premier Magashule for the licensing”.
Finger and Rantso decided to confront Bakili about these allegations. According to Finger’s statement, Bakili was evasive when he was confronted. He told them that “it’s not like that, and then went back to his friends” whom he was sitting with when they arrived at their meeting point.
“As Bakili left us standing there, Mr Rantso said to me that I must walk away from Bakili,” said Finger.
Rantso said he stopped interacting with Bakili as he felt that he and Siemens were not honest with him, especially about the R5 million payment. A source said that Bakili’s claims should be approached with caution since “he name-drops” to get his way.
Bank statements seen by City Press show that between March 2017 and April 2018, Siemens had already dished out payments of up to R5 million to Bakili. These were disguised as loans between the two and ranged from anything as low as R3 000 to R650 000 in one go.
Relations between Siemens and Bakili soured when Siemens stopped making further payments in April last year – a month before he was gunned down.
Sources have alleged that Siemens was about to blow the whistle and had also lodged a case of fraud and extortion against Bakili with the police, following the advice he was given by a private investigator, Albertus Erasmus.
It is understood that the licence was eventually granted to CityMed Day Hospital after Siemens’ assassination.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo refused to comment on the contents of counter-intelligence’s correspondence, saying it was a classified document and it “was illegal” for City Press to be in possession of it.
Motsoaledi said he had neither met nor spoken to Bakili. “I vehemently deny the claim that I received monies from Mr Bakili. This is an absolute lie. I challenge anyone who has evidence, documentary or otherwise, to produce it and share it with law-enforcement agents so that the law can take its course.
“In fact, if any competent court or authority can arrive at a finding that I received bribe money from this gentleman, or from any other person for that matter, I will resign from my job as a minister with immediate effect.”
– City Press