Sipho Mapalala, a businessman from Mpumalanga who wanted to bribe an officer of the special investigation unit (SUE), was supposed to be sentenced on Thursday, but will not hear his fate until next month.
In January this year, Mapalala pleaded guilty to charges of corruption and bribery after he offered the relevant SOE officer a bribe of R50 000. In return, an investigation into an irregular Covid-19 contract – awarded to his sister, Gugu Bulunga – had to be stopped. Bulunga is one of the directors of Mbombela Integrated, which has been designated as a service provider for disinfection services.
Monica Nyuswa, spokeswoman for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), confirmed that Mapalala will be sentenced on April 5 in the Mbombela Commercial Crime Court.
“The state was ready to proceed with the sentencing on Thursday, but the accused’s legal representative asked for more time to study the pre-sentence report,” says Nyuswa.
Mapalala’s attempted bribery follows an investigation carried out by the SOE into the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport in Mpumalanga.
“The SOE’s investigations revealed that the department had appointed a service provider for pest control services in the 2017-18 financial year. When a national state of emergency was declared, the department changed the contract to include disinfection services in the contract. The disinfection services were for buildings owned and managed by the provincial government in Ehlanzeni district,” says Nyuswa.
“After the disinfection work was done, the service provider received multiple payments that totaled R4.8 million. The first payment of R1.3 million was made in July 2020, followed by several payments amounting to R3.5 million.”
According to the investigation, large sums of money were transferred from the service provider to various entities and individuals’ accounts.
“One of the entities that received money made several payments, which then put the Falcons on the trail of a Mpumalanga-based law firm and two employees of the department. The law firm bought property worth R2.2 million and registered it in the name of one of the two departmental officials’ daughters.”
On 5 August 2021, the SOE questioned Bulunga about payments made to civil servants and properties purchased for civil servants. Bulunga denied the allegations.
“After the interrogation, Mapalala called an SOE investigator to state that he was willing to do anything to make the case against Bulunga disappear.”
He was consequently arrested in August 2021 following an investigation by the Falcons.
In his guilty plea, Mapalala admitted that his actions were illegal and punishable. He explained that he wanted to help Bulunga stay out of trouble, which caused her “severe anxiety”.
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