Zondo arrests: Hawks swoop on Edwin Sodi, graft-tainted Free State housing execs

Over a 10-year period, housing executives in the Free State and Gauteng awarded contracts totalling R1bn to the owner of Blackhead Consulting, Edwin Sodi. During the state capture commission, evidence linking the contracts to kickbacks given to former Free State Housing department head Nthimotse Mokhesi and former national human settlements director-general Thabane Zulu was laid bare. The commission heard from Sodi how R650,000 was paid to Mokhesi for him to purchase a property valued at R1,6m in Bloemfontein while Zulu received a R600,000 cash deposit for a luxury SUV. Sodi’s Blackhead Consultancy was then the recipient of a R200m asbestos housing project in the Free State. In addition, several ANC politicians including Paul Mashatile, Zweli Mkhize, Thulas Nxesi and Zizi Kodwa have all been implicated in Sodi’s testimony which revealed large payments made to them. Shortly after Sodi and Mokhesi concluded their testimony at the Zondo Commission, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) pounced on Mokhesi, Zulu and Sodi, arresting them for tender fraud and corruption – Bernice Maune. 

By Bernice Maune 

Three men linked to an asbestos deal gone awry were arrested by the Hawks on Wednesday. Edwin Sodi, Nthimote Mokhesi and Thabane Zule were apprehended by the Hawks.

According to Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi, the men are among a group of suspects that were behind a R255m housing scandal in the Free State.

The provincial government awarded a tender to fix houses that were leaking asbestos to businessman Edwin Sodi’s Blackhead Consulting company despite the agency not having the accreditation to remove the metal.

Sodi then entered into a joint venture with Ignatius Mpambani, the owner of Diamond Hill Trading. Mpambani was killed in a drive-by shooting by an unknown gunman while driving in his Bentley in Sandton in 2015.

According to Adv Andy Mothibi, head of SIU, the arrests are the beginning of a spate of arrests which were set aside for the end of September. While the SIU would not be drawn into commenting on which suspects would also be apprehended, it is understood that officials who have testified at the Zondo commission are expected to be arrested.

Edwin Sodi and kickbacks for tenders

According to Sunday World, Sodi, a flamboyant entrepreneur had begun receiving lucrative contracts from the government in 2014. Once he had finalised an agreement with the Free State on the asbestos deal, his contract was also extended to Gauteng. However, Sodi’s company was slated for poor workmanship, with Mokhesi telling the Zondo commission it was not value for money.

In addition, Sodi subcontracted the work for R21m to a different company and made off with a R200m profit. The following ANC officials were implicated by Sodi with his bank statements showing cash transfers and deposits;

  • Labour minister Thulas Nxesi was paid R45,000 when he was minister of public works in 2017.
  • Zizi Kodwa received payments totalling R174,000 from 2015 to 2017.
  • Former Gauteng acting head of department of human settlements Bongani More was paid R7,5-million between July 2013 and March 2018.
  • As chief of staff for Nomvula Mokonyane when she was the Premier of Gauteng, Colin Pitso was paid R7,5m between 2013 and 2018.
  • Health minister Zweli Mkhize was listed as receiving R6,5m which Sodi said was meant for the ANC.
  • Paul Mashatile was allocatedR3,5m, also as a donation for the ANC.
When questioned by Zondo about the reasons for the payments, Sodi said he was helping out his associates and in some instances, paying for work done in co-ventures with some of the officials. He avidly defended the payments, saying he saw nothing wrong in supporting the ANC while doing business with the government.
“I don’t think there is any crime in one supporting a party of his choice. The fact that a lot of the work I get is from government, I find that a bit overreaching to create the link to my donations to the ANC and the work that we get,” he said.

Watch the full testimony of Edwin Sodi at the Zondo commission here.
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