Edwin Sodi, who was involved in an alleged asbestos looting scheme in the Free State, has admitted to the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture he made payments to the ANC and other government officials.
But he defended the payments, saying there was nothing criminal about supporting a party of one’s choice.
The payments were made while Sodi’s company benefited from government tenders.
The officials mentioned include Deputy State Security Minister Zizi Kodwa, Deputy Minister of Communications Pinky Kekana and Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi.
On Tuesday during his testimony before the commission, Sodi said he did not view the payments as “strange, fraudulent or as corrupt”.
A joint venture between his engineering consultancy firm, Blackhead Consulting, and the late Ignatius Mpabani’s Diamond Hill Trading 71 scored a multimillion-rand asbestos audit contract in 2014.
The commission also heard Gauteng and the Free State had extended the contract to each other and the process was found to be flawed.
During his previous testimony before the commission, Sodi conceded his company did not have the certification needed to handle asbestos.He appeared again before the commission and was asked about payments he made between March 2013 and March 2019 to the ruling party and others.
Sodi told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who chairs the commission, the amount he gave to Kodwa was R174,000.
“Zizi is [a] friend that I have known for a number of years, and I have made payments to him in his personal capacity before he joined government when he still worked for the ANC and that can be verified.”
He said he made the payment as a “friend” after Kodwa requested assistance on a number of times. “A lot of it chair, was related for instance he would say ‘we’ve not paid on time this month from Luthuli House or there is delays in payment’ … and he would ask for some assistance because he’s got some debit orders that have to go through,” Sodi added.
City Press reported at the weekend that Kodwa said his friendship with Sodi started in 2015. According to the publication, Kodwa said at the time he was stationed at Luthuli House and could not have been in a position to influence any government tenders for any benefit.
Sodi was also asked about a R6.5 million payment which was referenced ‘Zweli Mkhize’.
He said Mkhize was the ANC treasurer general at the time of the payment and the money was specifically for the party.
He also made a payment of R371,553 to Paul Mashatile – Sodi said that money was made “directly to the ANC”.
Sodi was asked about a payment he made to Kekana.
He said: “She is someone I consider a sister that I am close with.” And on the payment he made to Nxesi, Sodi told Zondo the payment was for “underprivileged” children.
“There were two payments – one of R15,000 which was directly paid to a school of an underprivileged child that I paid coming from his request.
“The second payment was R30,000 for accommodation, also for underprivileged kids which was paid to the institution.”
Other payments he was asked about include R7.5 million to Bongani More, who was deputy director-general for the Gauteng human settlements department.
Sodi said More was his business associate, adding “when he left government, we agreed on getting into business together, he was very clear in fact when we spoke that ‘look I want to get into the private sector, I want nothing to do with government so whatever opportunities that we looked at must not be in government’.”
He also made a R2 million payment to a Linda who was an official in the department. Sodi said the money was a loan after she had left the department, adding the woman was “struggling”.
On a payment he made to Colin Pitso, who was Nomvula Mokonyane’s chief of staff, Sodi said the money was for an entity owned by Pitso’s father.
However, evidence leader Paul Pretorius said: “What also seems to be part of the pattern is that money goes back to officials either in joint deals or in other forms and the ruling party benefits from these deals. As it did from all the work that you did.
Now whether there is a link or not, is a matter for further investigation in this case but it may be a matter that the chair might want to comment on in due course.”
Sodi defended the payments, saying he grew up supporting the ANC.
“The fact that there would have been some donations from either myself in my individual capacity or from one of my entities… I don’t see that as strange or as fraudulent or as corrupt. I certainly don’t see it that way. Unless if someone convinces me otherwise. I don’t think there is any crime in one supporting a party of his choice,” he said.