There were jubilant scenes outside the Middelburg Magistrate’s Court in Mpumalanga on Wednesday after flamboyant, corruption-accused businessman Sam Tshabalala was granted R500,000 bail.
Before delivering her much-awaited bail judgment, Magistrate Hlengiwe Mkhabela said she took into account that Tshabalala had attended the Witbank Magistrate’s Court for a previous case in which he was released on bail last year.
“There is no evidence that the applicant will interfere with witnesses. I’m of the view that the applicant is aware of the seriousness of the charges he is facing,” said Mkhabela.
Tshabalala faces two counts of corruption.
He was arrested earlier this month after he allegedly attempted to bribe a senior police officer to release his car, which had been confiscated, and to make his previous case disappear, according to Mpumalanga Hawks spokesperson Captain Dineo Sekgotodi.
She said Tshabalala, 25, allegedly gave a R50,000 down payment and a later R70,000.
On Wednesday, a group of about 10 men and women, believed to be employed at Tshabalala’s company Sam Holdings, sang struggle songs and danced outside the court.
They held placards and some wore T-shirts, bearing the Sam Holdings name and logo.
One of the placards described Tshabalala as a job creator.
Two women wore headscarves in ANC colours.
“I’m happy my boss has been granted bail,” said one man, who only identified himself as Ben.
“I was going to be disappointed if he was denied bail. We really need him because he enables us to make a living.”
The Hawks first arrested Tshabalala, who goes by the name Mshengu, in eMalahleni in September last year and charged him with fraud, corruption and the possession of an unlicensed firearm.
His arrest followed a long investigation into his citizenship in which it was established that his surname was Tshabalala and not Chabalala.
The Witbank Magistrate’s Court released him on R200,000 bail on September 16.
Tshabalala was also thrust into the public limelight in July last year when he posted pictures on social media of a fleet of expensive cars travelling in a convoy to the Durban July.
At least 10 cars that were in the 72-vehicle convoy reportedly belonged to him and bore personalised Mpumalanga number plates with the name “Sam” inscribed on them.
Other social media posts suggested that Sam Holdings also supplied coal to Eskom.
In addition, it emerged in the same court at the time that Tshabalala owned 63 articulated trucks and that Sam Holdings employed 100 people.