Kebone Masange. Picture: Oris Mnisi
Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane has served a Zimbabwe-born departmental head with a notice of intention to suspend him following his arrest, together with a senior prosecutor and a Hawks unit commander, this week.
The trio were arrested on allegations of using bribery to have a charge of false citizenship withdrawn.
Provincial human settlements head Kebone Masange (51) was still battling to clear his name following his arrest last September – on a charge of fraud relating to a contravention of the Immigration Act – when he was nabbed again on Tuesday with the two accomplices for allegedly paying a R33 000 bribe to a senior prosecutor to “kill off” the charge.
The other two are acting Mpumalanga director of public prosecutions Matric Luphondo (52) and commander of the Hawks serious corruption investigations unit Lieutenant Colonel Ayanda Plaatje (45).
The trio allegedly colluded to bribe a prosecutor, Advocate Andrew Mphaga, to withdraw the fraud charge against Masange.
Mphaga was allegedly offered R5 000 cash that was stashed inside a box of an 18-year-old Glenfiddich single-malt whisky on March 23 by Luphondo.
Then, on March 27, Plaatje allegedly offered him R28 000.
When Masange was arrested in Pretoria last year, Mtshweni-Tsipane placed him on special leave.
He had not yet returned to work when he ran foul of the law again.
Mtshweni-Tsipane’s spokesperson, Sibongile Mkani-Mpolweni, said:
“Masange’s been served with a notice of intention to suspend in accordance with fair administrative processes, as outlined in the Public Service Act and regulations, the Senior Management Service handbook and other related prescriptions.”
Luphondo and Plaatje are also facing internal disciplinary action for their alleged role in this crime.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said the NPA had initiated “relevant labour processes” against Luphondo, meaning he will be charged and hauled before a disciplinary committee.
Hawks spokesperson Colonel Katlego Mogale said a disciplinary process against Plaatje was being initiated.
The trio were granted R20 000 bail in the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, with strict orders to not interfere with witnesses.
Masange was initially arrested by home affairs immigration officials and handed over to the Hawks when information came to light that he had previously claimed to authorities that he was born in Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg and Brits while applying for documents.
At the time, he had been living in South Africa since 1995.
According to the indictment, this is how Luphondo and Plaatje tried to influence Mphaga:
- On March 18, Luphondo phoned Mphaga and requested a meeting at a McDonald’s restaurant in Arcadia, Pretoria. There, Luphondo allegedly told Mphaga that Masange was prepared to do anything to get out of the criminal charge and that they should help him do so.
- On March 23, Luphondo handed Mphaga the bottle of Glenfiddich whisky worth R1 550. In the same box was R5 000 in cash. Luphondo told Mphaga that more cash would be forthcoming.
- On March 27, Plaatje asked Mphaga to meet him on the R21 Mandela off-ramp at Fountains. There, he allegedly handed Mphaga R28 000 in cash.
The trio is charged with four counts of contravening the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.