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AN ACT TO FOLLOW

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A very positive development has occurred in the country’s fight against corruption which cannot be allowed to go without due recognition. Government has just pocketed a cool E650 000, plus two vehicles without even breaking a sweat.


All it took was for one man to pick up a phone and make that call. With this kind of money, government can afford to pay over 1 500 elderly grants or buy food that could last months for some schools.

This thanks to a whistleblower, Walter Bennett, the outspoken Mbabane businessman. It is not a donation he made but money forfeited to the state after a businessman Patel Akhter Husein tried to bribe Bennett but ended up in court when the attempt was reported to the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) just as he was about to slip E100 000 to Bennett ‘under the table’ as it were.


For the benefit of those who may not have been following this case, well in 2015 Bennett, as co-director of Buzzby Services (Pty) Ltd,  was approached by the Swaziland Posts and Telecommunications (SPTC) and contracted to sell copper cables amounting to E3 million and weighing 60 tonnes by public auction to the highest bidder. After an advert for the sale was published in local newspapers, Hussein approached Bennett and the two met at the Buzzby Services offices at Dlanubeka Building. Husein asked Bennett to ensure that his company won the bid in return for a bribe of E150 000. He told Bennett to place a sealed bid of E700 000 against the E3 million that the copper cables had been valued at.


After the discussion, Husein gave Bennett E50 000 as part of the bribe payment on February 19, 2015 near Sidwashini Engen Filling Station. Bennett handed the money to the police and ACC officials.


The balance of E100 000 was to be paid on February 23 of the same year at the Engen Filling Station. Husein was travelling in a Toyota Mark II registered OSD 527 AH and he kept the money in the car. While he negotiated with Bennett to have him take the money from the car, ACC investigators and police officers arrived and arrested Husein who was with his friends. The case was concluded recently and Husein got a two month sentence which was wholly suspended for two years by High Court Judge Sipho Nkosi who, however, ordered that a sum of E500 000 which was paid by Husein to Bennett as a deposit for the copper cable stock be forfeited to the state.


An application for forfeiture had been moved on the basis that these items were proceeds of a serious offence. Husein was not opposed to the forfeiture application. These developments are what we would love to see on a day to day basis because each of us is exposed to this sort of crime every other day. We may not know if Bennett has been rewarded for his commendable effort but it should not even be about looking forward to an incentive.


Our vigilance against corruption should be motivated by determination to save this country from losing money that should otherwise be used to purchase drugs for our hospitals and clinics; to ensure there is enough food in schools for our children and to help increase the number of scholarships awarded to deserving students among dozens of other priority needs.


This case also raises the need for the establishment of a Corruption Court for speedy trials. Husein had pleaded guilty to contravening the Prevention of Corruption Act No.3 of 2006 when he was charged with I.M.M Investments (Pty) Ltd in which he is a co-director and holds 60 percent shares. The offence was committed between February 19 and 23, 2015 in Mbabane. So why take two years for a guilty plea?  


The cables were eventually sold for E2 850 000 instead of the E700 000 that SPTC would have received if Bennett decided to corrupt himself.
One also has to look at the company that was being defrauded. SPTC is in dire need of a cash injection to keep it afloat. It has a massive deficit on its pension scheme and is struggling to find resources for the stalled un-bungling into three entities. The future of hundreds of employees hangs in the balance but here we have people who are willing to plunge these lives into further jeopardy by fleecing the company of the little it has left.
For what it’s worth, we say thank you Mr Bennett. Here’s to hoping many of us will emulate your brave deed and rid our corrupt society of this evil.

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