Source: Lead SA
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has withdrawn a charge of corruption against Reverend Josias Mabaso following a psychiatric report that deemed him “unfit to stand trial”.
Mabaso, in his late 70s, appeared in the Johannesburg Commercial Crimes Court on Monday where he was standing trial for bribery and corruption. Mabaso is also alleged to have misused education subsidies awarded to two schools in Gauteng.
“We are disappointed that the law will not take its course, but respect that the court cannot ignore the medical recommendations regarding Mabaso’s fitness to stand trial,” said Lead SA. “The victims in this case are the hundreds of learners that were denied the right to receive quality education, despite their school being subsidised by the department of education. It is a disgrace.”
Mabaso was arrested in a sting operation carried out by the Hawks in 2011 when he allegedly tried to bribe Lead SA’s Yusuf Abramjee, who is also the head of Crime Line, with R1.2-million to keep the lid on the alleged corruption. The Hawks seized R50 000 in cash that Mabaso offered Abramjee as a first instalment.
The Assets Forfeiture Unit subsequently seized millions of rands worth of property and valuables belonging to Mabaso.
The reason the case dragged on for so long, the NPA’s James Bhengu told Corruption Watch, is because Mabaso was unwell and was constantly in and out of hospital. This meant that he couldn’t appear in court when he was required to.
“We had to constantly postpone the case so that he could be well enough to appear in court, this happened quite a lot,” Bhengu said.
Mabaso was also sent to Sterkfontein hospital for mental observation, but because of the shortage of beds was not admitted immediately – this also caused delays.
Lead SA visited one of Mabaso’s two schools – both named Ekhukhanyeni – in 2011 and found the school, located in Ramaphosa, outside Germiston on the East Rand, in a dilapidated state and struggling to feed its learners. Lead SA learned from Mabaso that the other school he owned in Denver was also in a poor state.
Lead SA contacted the then Gauteng MEC for Education, Barbara Creecy, who confirmed that the schools were collectively receiving a subsidy of more than R20-million. Despite this sizeable subsidy learners had to make do with broken furniture, run down classrooms and a crust of bread for lunch.
“We were shocked at the state the school was in, but our shock and disgust was even greater when we learned that the department was subsidising both of Mabaso’s schools. Very little of the money was trickling down to the maintenance and running of the schools. The fact that corruption is settling itself in our schools is unacceptable,” said Lead SA.
It was at this point, said Abramjee at the time, that Mabaso offered a substantial bribe for Lead SA to turn a blind eye to the situation. Abramjee and the Hawks then set up a sting operation to snare the pastor.
Meanwhile, Creecy appointed Marumofase Fivaz Security Solutions to undertake a forensic investigation into the two schools. The schools have since been deregistered.
At the time of Mabaso’s arrest the department also conducted an audit of 205 independent schools in the province and irregularities were found in 34 of them. His arrest put the spotlight on school authorities who were mismanaging subsidies that were meant to be ploughed back into schools.
“We call on the education department to continue conducting audits of schools and in particular the administration of subsidies. We need to send a strong message that corruption will not be tolerated in our education system. We in turn urge the public to continue blowing the whistle if they are aware of corruption at schools,” Lead SA said.
The organisation has called on Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, to ensure that the law takes its course with regard to Mabaso’s two schools. “While the bribery charge has been concluded, the fact remains that four years after the incident, not a single person has been charged in regards to the alleged misuse of millions of Rands by Mabaso and/or his associates. We need to ensure that justice is done.”
The case involving the alleged theft of school money is separate from the corruption case, said the NPA’s Bhengu, and there is an ongoing investigation.
“As far as the corruption charge is concerned, we have no option but to accept the medical reports in good faith,” Abramjee said.