PPE corruption: Tearful ex-cop accused of tender fraud begs court to be released on bail

The retired head of police supply chain management broke down in court, pleading to be released from custody

The accused in the SAPS PPE case.

The accused in the SAPS PPE case. Ntwaagae Seleka

The retired head of police supply chain management broke down in tears as he implored the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court, sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court, to grant him bail.

“I live alone, [and] I live for my daughter,” said Lieutenant-General Johannes Mokwena.

The 61-year-old told the packed court he could not spend more time in prison.

Wiping tears from his face, Mokwena said his 19-year-old daughter was his only reason “for living”.

His daughter is a first-year university student, studying actuarial science.

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Mokwena, who has two previous brushes with the law, and 14 others allegedly defrauded the police of R1.9 million through a personal protective equipment (PPE) tender.

He was first arrested for the R191 million blue light tender scandal.

Mokwena was later arrested for his alleged involvement in the multimillion-rand police vehicle marking tender scandal, which was struck off the court roll.

He is currently on bail for the blue light scandal.

“I retired from the SAPS in 2019. When I left the SAPS, there was no Covid-19 in the country. I am clueless because I was at home when the alleged offence was committed. I am going to plead not guilty.

“I fully co-operated with the investigating officers. I even gave them directions to my home. I don’t know the witnesses in this case.”

READ | PPE corruption: Police officers among 15 arrested in connection with R1.9m latex gloves tender

Things took a turn when his tears started flowing.

Mokwena claimed he should have undergone an operation on the day he was arrested.

“I was supposed to have been operated on 8 February and discharged the following day. I told the investigating team about my pending operation. They ignored me.

“I have a letter for admission. Should I not be operated on, I would die. I live alone and live for my daughter,” he said.

Prosecutor Tilas Chabalala put it to Mokwena he allegedly conspired with one of his co-accused, Kishene Chetty, to defraud the police through tenders.

“Chetty paid for your legal fees in the previous matter after the SAPS had irregularly awarded him a tender. Those fees also covered for your other co-accused, James Manjalum.

“The PPE contract, which was unlawfully awarded by Jane Mthembu, Brigadier Stephinah Mokgohle Mahlangu and retired Colonel Isaac Majaji Ngobeni is linked to you because your legal fees were settled in May 2020.

“The favour was done in return of you earlier awarding tenders to Chetty,” Chabalala submitted.

Responding, Mokwena said:

This is unfair. It is a surprise because things were done when I was on a pension. I’m blamed for something that happened behind my back. I have never visited Chetty at his home. If that is true, then I’m a liar.

“I don’t even know Blue Valley Golf Estate where Chetty resided. I was suspended after my arrest for the blue light scandal. I was later stripped of all my responsibilities at work.

“I was sitting in the boardroom doing nothing. I then decided to retire. I was driven to and from work to sit and do nothing with a Lieutenant-Colonel rank at state cost. There was no departmental action taken against me,” he added.

The court heard Chetty owned properties in golf estates.

Mokwena, Chetty, Manjalum, Lorette and Maricha Joubert, Kumarasen and Volan Prithiviraj, Veeran Naipal, Alpheus Makhetha, Marcell Marney, Morris Mabasa, and Lesetja Mogotlane have brought bail applications before magistrate Phillip Venter.

Mahlangu, Ngobeni and Salamina Khoza were each granted R5 000 bail on Tuesday.

The 15 face charges of fraud, corruption, forgery, uttering, theft, assisting another person in benefitting from the proceeds of crime and acquiring, possessing or using the proceeds of unlawful activities.

The hearing continues on Thursday.

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