The Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court found a senior Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA) official, Lizeka Tonjeni (49) guilty of corruption related to the Digital Vibes contract.

MISA is a national government component that is accountable to the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). In 2018 when MISA awarded a tender of almost R4 million to Digital Vibes to render communication services for a period of 24 months, Tonjeni was nominated as a project manager responsible for the appointment and management of the service provider, and to whom all communication had to be addressed. From December 2018 until August 2020, while Tonjeni was still a project manager, she received payments of R160 000.00 that were not authorised and due to her, from Digital Vibes.

After investigations by the Hawks Serious Corruption Offences (SCO), Tonjeni was arrested after she handed herself to the police at the Pretoria Central Police Station on 24 May 2022. She was released on R5000 bail, with conditions that she should hand in her passport with the clerk of the court and should not apply for a new passport. Furthermore, she should not travel outside the Gauteng province unless she applies with the investigating officer.

In court, she pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied that she fraudulently received payments from Digital Vibes. In her testimony she said, the payments received from the director of Digital Vibes Tahera Mather, were payments for weight loss and energy booster products she was selling, as such she still owes the director of Digital Vibes
R85 000, since she was unable to deliver some of the products and pay back her money. However, a team of prosecutors, Advocates Willem van Zyl and Phuma Dwane, called witnesses who are MISA employees, to testify and adduced evidence to prove that indeed Tonjeni was guilty of the charges preferred against her.

During the judgment, magistrate Setshoge found the evidence of Tonjeni not to be reasonably true and dishonest. Therefore, she found that the state was able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. After the judgment, Tonjeni brought an application to have her bail extended. However, the state opposed the application because Tonjeni failed to comply with her bail conditions. She travelled and moved to the Eastern Cape without notifying the investigating officer and applied for a new passport, while her bail conditions prohibited her from doing so. During the bail hearing, advocate Willem van Zyl argued that Tonjeni was a flight risk, as she applied for a passport 17 days before her possible conviction. In her judgment, the magistrate found that Tonjeni undermined the justice system and bail system. The scenario gives a likelihood that Tonjeni will flee whenever she wants, therefore the application was dismissed. The matter was postponed to 06 June 2024 for sentencing proceedings.

The NPA welcomes the conviction and wants to send a strong message that corrupt officials know that impunity is no longer a given and that dreaded knock on the door has become a realistic prospect.

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