Suspended African National Congress (ANC) Secretary-General Ace Magashule is eager to know the state witnesses that implicated him in the multimillion-rand asbestos corruption case. Magashule continues to cast aspersions on the state’s case, arguing that charges against him are politically motivated.

He and 15 others appeared briefly before the Bloemfontein High Court for the pre-trial hearing of the alleged irregular awarding of a R255 million asbestos roof removal contract.

Magashule, ten others, and five companies returned to court amid tight security. He believes the prosecution has no case against him.

The prosecution contends that it will disclose the list of witnesses closer to the trial date. The pre-trial hearing was postponed to enable defence lawyers to receive relevant documents regarding the case.

The state has revealed that there are more than 300 000 pages of documents relating to the case.

The case is then postponed for pre-trial to the third of November, all the natural persons’ bail is extended and they will appear at this court again at nine o’clock in the morning,” said Judge Cagney Musi.

Contention over a witness

Another bone of contention is the legal status of a key witness, the USA-based Moroadi Cholota. Cholota was Magashule’s personal assistant when he was the Free State premier.

The defence claim that Cholota is their witness and the state erred to claim her as a witness. The trial court is likely to declare whether Cholota would be regarded as a witness for the defence, the state, or that of the court. Magashule and his co-accused face more than 70 charges of fraud, corruption, and money laundering.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Advocate Mthunzi Mhaga says they are ready for the trial.

“The issue of documentation is now being resolved because they have now been served; in fact, the indictment was served by February already, even in your archive you will see that we did serve them at the Magistrate’s Court with the other accused. But today there was an exchange of documentation in respect of session 212 which relates to admission and other issues. But these issues will be ventilated during the trial, when a trial date has been set.”

Today’s court proceedings:

‘Justice has to be served’

A whistleblower in the alleged asbestos corruption, Leona Kleynhans says she is determined to find justice for more than 30 000 Free State residents who still reside in asbestos-roofed houses.

“We have a great interest in seeing justice being done, which as I say it’s been more than six years that we have been trying to get justice for the 32 000 who are still living under asbestos roofs in the Free State.”

Effects of asbestos on residents 

At the grassroots level, the asbestos impact is devastating. Mpho Kometsi is one of the affected residents.

“I have been staying at Silver City for more than 30 years. We have an asbestos roof.  I lost my grandmother 3 years ago due to the asbestos.”

Lucky Mongale from the Afrikan Alliance of Social Democrats was also in court.

“Asbestos, the failure to remove it is like genocide. It’s worse than the Rwandan situation. In Rwanda, people were shot and some survived. In this case, once you have asbestos over you,  there is no chance that you will survive and it is a dream deferred. As South Africans, we need to get the leadership that will get us out of this genocide.”

The accused are out on bail ranging from R50 000 to R500 000.