Crime/ 13 October 2023, 07:17am/ Staff Writer
Nhlanhla Mathebula:image supplied
By Staff Writer: A Department of Home Affairs official, Nhlanhla Mathebula, has been sentenced to a decade in prison after being found guilty of corruption and contravention of the Immigration Act in the Nelspruit Commercial Crimes Court earlier this week.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) announced that Mathebula, aged 39, was convicted on 12 counts of corruption in contravention of Section 4(1)(a) of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004, and 13 counts of contravention of Section 49(14) of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002.
Mathebula, a Department of Home Affairs employee stationed at White River, Mpumalanga, was found guilty of illegally processing passport applications for illegal immigrants. “During May 2021, the accused would swap the picture of the South African citizen with that of a foreign national,” said NPA spokesperson Monica Nyuswa. She added that these applications were typically processed late at night, and sometimes in the early hours of the day, even when Mathebula was on leave.
For his illicit services, Mathebula received payments ranging from R1,000 to R5,000 per application.
The illegal operation was exposed after one of Mathebula’s “clients” mistakenly identified him in front of his Home Affairs colleagues while seeking assistance with a fake passport. The incident was reported to the Hawks, leading to an investigation and subsequent arrest of the accused.
Senior State advocate Themba Mavundza, during the trial, argued that such crimes tarnish the country’s reputation and called for a severe sentence for deterrence.
Mathebula was handed a sentence of 10 years of direct imprisonment. The court also ordered that the money Mathebula received as gratification during the commission of these crimes be recovered from his pension funds and transferred to the Criminal Assets Recovery Account. Further, all passports issued by Mathebula have been ordered to be forfeited to the state.