By Ackel Zwane | 2018-09-14
THE hair-raising jailing of a former chief executive officer in the person of Charles ‘Ace’ Jele could be opening a very important page in the book of theft.
He was found guilty by the courts of stealing E400 000 from his organisation this week, former Royal Swaziland Airways Corporation. Media reports now see a moment of sadness after justice had been served on a person who has treated, entertained his family and friends to the goodies derived from moneys that belonged to a taxpayers’ company, that is you and I. The judge of the honourable court appears to have ruled in favour of you and I by ordering the repayment of the stolen money or the rotting away of the culprit for a merry three years in Mzuthini’s backyard.
Now the friends and relatives are screaming ‘murder’ and wish the heavens would open up for a downpour of blessings to cleanse Jele of the disgrace. Now friends and relatives wish the Lord Jesus Christ would have mercy and pardon this Jele so that he could be with his friends and relatives, the taxpayer matters no more, how said indeed!
The most meaningful prayer at this moment, however, is for the justice system to make sure that Jele is not the only sacrificial lamb but the start of an era of not just lifestyle audit of politicians and the mighty but also the setting up of vibrant and independent asset recovery and forfeiture units for every penny that has been stolen from the public coffers.
As we go into an election, we must be working on systems that would never allow for the looting of state assets, which has been happening with impunity in the past two or so decades. The next government must establish a from of red ants squad to, among other things, take stock of Crown Land that has become a source of enrichment in the urban areas, whereby politicians have strategically positioned bootlickers to protect such assets that have been illicitly acquired.
Senators last year in April had tasked retired prime minister Sibusiso Dlamini with the setting up of a commission of inquiry into the loss of over E10 million in the attempt to revive the national airline, the defunct Royal Swazi National Airways Corporation. This Senate instruction spoke volumes about the rot at the helm of the corporation, especially to highlight that Jele could only just be a tip of the iceberg. In 2016, were to be told that a tender was awarded to a Canadian consultancy firm without the due tendering process, thus opening floodgates for looting, the government of the day did nothing to stem the craze and corrupt individuals went away unscathed.
One Guillermo Barrios gleefully announced before a stunned media gathering that his consultancy firm had already acquired a 110 passenger seat airline with both business and commercial compartments.
Then Public Works and Transport Minister Lindiwe Dlamini expressed delight when she announced a board of the corporation that would lease an airplane that had been decommissioned by the International Civil Aviation Organisation; at the time of her excitement she was privy to the information that the country had already parted with about E5 million to Sky Jet. Under her own oversight, the national airline, or what was to be, never managed to be granted Air Operator’s Licence in order to fly the skies. By that time, connections were traced to an airline dealer that supplied the said aircraft, this being some American citizen, which meant government had to separate with more money to acquire a licence by involving neighbouring South Africa connections.
The commission of enquiry would have established the architects of such illicit transactions that cost the taxpayer so dearly to the extent the country does not have its own national airline in the fashion of ‘Lijubantsendzele’ or ‘Ludvondvolo’.
Surprisingly investigations discovered theft in the person of Jele while a commission of enquiry was deliberately suppressed, resulting in nothing all because it would have exposed the architects who are given the responsibility of oversight. This makes Jele the unlucky one, or could it be that he did not share the spoils?
Jele had predecessors in the person of former Central Transport Administration General Transport Manager Polycarp Dlamini, who was found guilty in 2016 of stealing E12 million and had a very brief stint in Mzuthini’s (prisons boss) stable after he became a beneficiary of the Prerogative of mercy Committee.
Polycarp had initially been co-charged with the rest of the accused, but entered a guilty plea and was turned into a state witness and testified against Mphumelelo -Mamba, Director of Protronics Networking Corporation and Industrial Court Judge President Sifiso Nsibande. However Polycarp, a jail made music man, had to dance to his own music all by himself while his co-accused came out scot free but the biggest loser in all these transactions was the taxpayer.
Then president of the Industrial Court and three others were initially arrested for allegedly defrauding the CTA of over E11 million.
Nsibande in 2010 was arrested together with Polycarp and Mpumelelo Mamba and businessman Sandile Dlamini, Director of Protronics Networking Corporation. The company was alleged to have defrauded the CTA of over E10 million between 2005 and 2006 for a period of 18 months.
They were facing 13 counts ranging from fraud, corruption and money laundering worth about E 11 million. They were alleged to have laundered money amounting to E4 518 000.
They were also facing 11 counts of fraud or theft, one count of corruption and one count of money laundering.The fraud charges emanated from fleet management, letters to fuel companies, evaluation of vehicles and development and roll out of financial management systems.
The arrests came after an operation executed by the police, the Anti-Corruption Unit and KPMG. The operation emanated from a Commission of Enquiry into the operations of the CTA. Nsibande was alleged to have committed the offence while he was still an attorney, before his appointment as president of the Industrial Court. However, the courts cleared these but the moneys from the Polycarp implicating transactions were never returned to the state coffers. Jele’s conviction on Tuesday could herald the return of an infallible justice system that will remove all doubts from the minds of taxpayers and bring suspects to successful prosecution and prevention of acts of corruption. It is unfortunate that Jele was convicted of fraud but there are lessons to be drawn from the history of his and that of others before him who have been hauled in the courts for alleged missing public funds.
It would be pleasing, after Jele, to watch those of his kind and they form Indian file before the judges of the land in order to return what has been stolen from the people.
Who knows, maybe government would not be tabling 0.00 per cent cost of living adjustment to the civil service that has since lost all interest in productive employment but rather in roaming the streets and confronting pistol wielding cops.
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