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S.Africa arrests bigwigs over Mandela funeral graft scandal

South Africa’s elite police on Friday arrested over a dozen members of the governing party, including a provincial minister, over the theft of funds earmarked for Nelson Mandela’s funeral eight years ago.

Fifteen suspects, including the current health minister for Eastern Cape province, Sindiswa Gomba, who was then a municipal councillor, as well as African National Congress (ANC) lawmakers and business owners, were granted bail after a brief court appearance.

They had initially been charged in 2019 but the charges were provisionally withdrawn.

After further investigation, the Hawks, a police unit which handles corruption and other special crimes, arrested the suspects on Friday.

They face corruption and money-laundering charges amounting to around 10 million rand ($680,000 / 560,000 euros).

The charges arose from fraudulent claims for the transportation of mourners and cost of venues booked for the memorial service for the country’s first black president in the southern coastal city of East London.

A magistrate freed them on bail of 1,000 rand ($68) bail each, and ordered them back to court on March 5, police spokeswoman Katlego Mogale said in a statement.

The arrests came a day after the 31st anniversary of Mandela’s release from 27 years of imprisonment.

After he left jail in 1990, he led the country’s transformation into a multi-racial democracy.

He died on December 5, 2013 aged 95.

In an annual nationwide address on Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said evidence being put before a panel probing graft under ex-president Jacob Zuma demonstrated “how the criminal justice system was compromised and weakened.”