Covid-19 Graft: Guilty Businessman Sipho Mapalala To Be Sentenced

Mbombela (Nelspruit) – Businessman Sipho Mapalala, who has pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigator to make a Covid-19 graft probe disappear, will be sentenced on Thursday at Mbombela Magistrates’ Court.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) secured a guilty plea from the Mpumalanga businessman in January 2023 after their investigations revealed the unlawful role of the accused in the matter.

The attempted bribe follows an SIU investigation in the affairs of the Mpumalanga Department of Public Works, Roads, and Transport, under Proclamation R23 of 2020, which uncovered procurement irregularities.

The SIU investigations revealed that initially, the department contracted a service provider in the 2017/18 financial year for pest control services.

However, when a National State of Disaster was declared, the department varied the contract to include disinfection services in the Ehlanzeni District.

The disinfection services were for buildings owned and managed by the Mpumalanga Provincial Government in the said District. After the disinfection, the service provider received multiple payments amounting to R4.8 million.

The first payment was R1,3 million in July 2020 and was followed by several payments amounting to R3.5 million.

The SIU investigations also revealed that immediately after the first payment, the service provider started transferring large amounts of money to various entities and individuals.

One of the entities that received money then made various payments, which were traced to a Mpumalanga-based law firm and two employees of the department.

The law firm bought a property to the value of R2.2 million and registered it in the name of the daughter of one of the two departmental officials.

On 5 August 2021, the SIU spoke to Gugu Bulunga, a director of Mbombela Integrated, and Thandolwani Transport and Properties about the matter.

Bulunga was questioned about payments made to government officials and properties bought for government officials.

Bulunga denied the allegations.

However, hours after the interview, Mapalala called an SIU investigator to declare that he was prepared “to do anything” to make the Covid-19 procurement investigation against Bulunga go away.

Mapalala has since pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe the SIU investigator.

“I wanted to help Gugu to get out of the mess which caused her severe anxiety and the threat to her life,” Mapalala wrote in his guilty plea, adding: “I, therefore, admit that I corrupted the SIU investigator and that my actions were unlawful and punishable”.

Mapalala’s sentencing begins on Thursday morning.