A high-ranking official from the eThekwini municipality, who is accused of large-scale corruption, could not get his Porsche Cayenne – which had been seized by the state – back because it was destroyed during the rioting in KwaZulu-Natal in July.
Sandile Ngcobo is one of the municipal officials, city councillors and service providers who will be tried in the Durban High Court next year on charges of tender corruption worth R230 million.
Ngcobo, eThekwini’s deputy director of supply chain management, was arrested in January last year, along with his wife Vuyiswa and three company directors.
The Hawks said at the time that Ngcobo had conspired with service providers in 2017 and had received benefits from them, including a R1 million Jaguar XF, which was allegedly given to his wife.
The vehicle was apparently a bribe so that Ngcobo, as chairperson of the municipality’s bid adjudication committee, would award a solid waste tender to other suspects.
Ngcobo has now brought an application in the Durban High Court to recover R1 million of the R7 million worth of assets seized by the state for safekeeping after his arrest.
He says he needs the money for living expenses and to pay the legal costs of his criminal case.
The court dismissed the application last week, with costs.
It heard that the state had already returned the Jaguar XF to Ngcobo, but he could not get his Porsche Cayenne back.
Acting Judge Sharon Marks said: The Porsche Cayenne was destroyed in the July 2021 unrest that took place in KwaZulu-Natal and is no longer capable of being restored or released.
Meanwhile, Ngcobo – who is out on bail – is still receiving his monthly salary from eThekwini. After the state assumed control of his bank accounts, he opened a new bank account into which his salary is paid.
Municipal officials and city councillors allegedly conspired with service providers in the solid waste tender that was issued in 2017, in which R230 571 760 was stolen from the municipality.
Among the other accused are Zandile Gumede, former mayor of eThekwini; and Sipho Nzuza, former municipal manager.
Since the group’s arrest, the national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) has taken control of goods worth R230 571 760 from 44 individuals, companies and close corporations.
The NDPP obtained a provisional restraint order in October 2019 without the knowledge of these 44 suspects.
A curator is now in control of the assets. The court must decide in February whether the provisional restraint order should be discharged or made final.
Ngcobo has now asked the court to revoke the order immediately and order the trustee to pay R1 million from one of his own bank accounts to his lawyers.
Marks said the curator had stated in her first report in 2019 that Ngcobo’s assets held by the state had an expected value of about R7 million.
The purpose of a restraining order is to hold an accused’s assets until the court decides whether they should be seized under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
The provisional restraining order against Ngcobo’s wife was revoked on November 12 last year and the trustee returned R41 500 to her. The trustee also conceded that she could have the Jaguar XF back.
Marks said that an applicant who brought such an application was obliged, under oath, to fully disclose all their interests in the seized property. They also had to show that their reasonable expenses could not be covered by assets that had not been seized.Ngcobo argued that he could not pay his legal costs for the criminal case from his other assets because they amounted to R500 000.
Many legal costs would still be added. He also believed it was unlikely that the seizure order would be granted, so he was asking for R1 million of the assets.
However, the NDPP says Ngcobo has still not given the trustee a declaration under oath of his income and expenses. Nor has he provided information about all the accounts he holds with Absa, containing more than R6 million, which were discovered after an investigation into his finances.
Marks said it was not enough for Ngcobo to simply declare that he had ownership of the seized assets and that he had not been open with the curator. It was therefore not surprising that the curator had refused to make money available to him for his living and legal expenses.
He should have submitted a properly motivated application for the release of the money.
According to the provisional restraining order, Ngcobo also had to disclose his interests in the property in safekeeping, but he had not done so.