Free State health MEC Benny Malakoane’s corruption court case was postponed for the fifth time on Wednesday.
Malakoane and his seven co-accused, which includes the current provincial MEC for sports, arts, culture and recreation, Mathabo Leeto, appeared in the Bloemfontein Regional Court on Wednesday, where a fraud and corruption case against them was postponed to November 25.
The two accused MECs allegedly received kickbacks worth R13-million for irregularly awarded contracts in Matjhabeng local municipality in the period from October 2007 to June 2008. Malakoane was municipal manager at the time and Leeto the executive mayor.
“The trial date was supposed to be set today, but instead it was postponed again so that all parties involved can hold a pre-trial conference,” said spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, Nathi Mncube.
The accused were first arrested by the Hawks on July 10 2013 and were released on bail. Since then, the case has been postponed four times in the Welkom District Court, where it was decided on August 1 that the case would be transferred to Bloemfontein.
“The point of a pre-trial conference is for the state to try and get concessions from the defence if there are any admissions they would like to make and also for the defence to try persuade the state to agree on certain charges,” said Mncube.
Malakoane ‘unfit’ for office
Mark Heywood from the social justice organisation Section27 said it was “problematic” that the case is “dragging along” while “someone who is unfit to run the health system remains in charge and while the same system crumbles underneath him”.
For the past year, HIV lobby group Treatment Action Campaign has been calling for Malakoane’s suspension until the outcome of the corruption case has been decided.
According to Christian Steyl from the Democratic Alliance in the Free State, the party is concerned that while the case continues, “two of our MECs can’t perform their constitutional mandate if they are distracted by legal processes”.
“We respect the principle of innocent until proven guilty but when you have someone in power charged with a serious offence the least that should happen is he should be suspended,” said Heywood.