National News/09 July 2023,16:45pm/ Mpho Mokoena
Free State Department of Public Works HOD, Ernest Mohlahlo:image supplied
By Mpho Mokoena: The Head of Department (HOD) of the Free State Department of Public Works, Mr. Ernest Mohlahlo, is living in fear for his life and the safety of his family after suspending eight officials allegedly involved in two separate embezzlement cases totaling to over R52 million.
In 2019, Mohlahlo intercepted and halted a fraudulent payment scheme amounting to nearly R24 million for unperformed work. Taking immediate action, he suspended seven officials suspected of involvement in this illicit transaction. The matter was promptly reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS), with two of the officials now awaiting trial scheduled to commence on 18th July 2023.
A confidential source verifies that Mr. Mohlahlo and his family have been subjected to intimidation and harassments, fueling fears for their safety. As the main state witness in this upcoming trial, the threats against Mohlahlo are escalating. He will testify in court on the 18th of July.
In a separate incident, our publication has seen a suspension letter indicating that Mohlahlo also suspended the Director of Supply Chain, Mr. Khaya Radebe, under suspicions of fraud involving R28 million. An internal disciplinary process for the director is currently underway. Despite several efforts to persuade Mohlahlo to revoke Radebe’s suspension, he firmly refused, further increasing tensions.
Mohlahlo’s refusal to lift suspensions on officials allegedly involved in corruption within the department has led to serious life-threatening repercussions for him and his family. Our source reported that Mohlahlo has received numerous threatening text messages and phone calls. Over the past three weeks, unidentified individuals, each using different cell phone numbers, have been warning him to withdraw Radebe’s suspension and recuse himself as a witness in the upcoming trial or face dire consequences.
According to the documents we have seen, Mohlahlo and the department’s CFO, Nicolene Jordaan, are expected to be key state witnesses in the R24 million embezzlement case.
When contacted for a comment, Mohlahlo refused to speak and abruptly ended the phone call.
Efforts to seek comments from the spokesperson for the Department of Public Works, Mlu Maqubela, have been unfruitful as he has not responded to our queries at the time of going to print.
This ongoing saga is indicative of the broader struggle against corruption within government departments, and the personal risks individuals like Mohlahlo face when attempting to uphold the law. As the trials approach, the safety of those involved remains a paramount concern.