The charges were put to African National Congress secretary-general Ace Magashule at a court appearance in the Magistrate Court in the central city of Bloemfontein on Friday. The court granted Magashule bail of R200,000.
Magashule, who currently oversees the day-to-day running of the ANC, is the highest-profile serving politician to face charges since President Cyril Ramaphosa took office in 2018 and pledged to crack down on the corruption that became endemic during his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s rule. The government estimated that more than R500 billion was stolen.
The case against Magashule relates to a 255 million-rand asbestos audit contract that was awarded in the Free State, according to the police’s special investigating unit.
Four government officials and business people were also detained in connection with the contract in September.
While the legal processes against Magashule could take years to be concluded, he may be politically sidelined in the interim.
That’s because the party has instructed all its members facing charges to step aside from their posts until their cases are concluded — although not all of them have complied.