Some 15 suspects were on Friday arrested for allegedly swindling US$700,000 in funds set aside for late President Nelson Mandela’s funeral service six years ago, the South African Police Service announced.The suspects, who were taken to court hours after their arrests, faced charges of alleged fraud, money laundering, contravention of the Municipal Finance Management Act and corruption, the police said.
Among the suspects were the Eastern Cape provincial health minister Sindiswa Gomba and Phumlani Mkolo, the African National Congress’ Eastern Cape provincial chairperson.
Other suspects were high profile Buffalo City municipal employees and businessmen as well as business entities, the police said.
“These suspects will be answering to allegations related to the procurement of service providers for the transportation and booking of venues during the memorial service and funeral preparations of the late Dr Nelson Mandela by the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality.
The crimes occurred between the period of 2013 and 2014, police spokesperson Katlego Mogale said.
Mogale said the Hawks’ Serious Commercial Crime Unit spent years conducting a thorough investigation into the scandal which led to the arrest of the 15 on Friday morning.
Eastern Cape provincial police chief Obed Ngwenya lauded the Hawks’ crime investigation team for “ultimately bringing the perpetrators to justice for squandering resources during a period when the country was mourning the death of an icon”
Following a hearing in the East London Magistrate Court, the suspects paid US$70 bail bond each and surrendered their passports as part of their bail conditions before being released to await their next court appearance, the police said.