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By Malibongwe Dayimani

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Retired employee must pay R2m back to University of Fort Hare for tenders awarded to her son

Despite paying back the R1.5 million with interest, the mother and her son now face 53 counts of fraud, forgery and uttering.

A retired University of Fort Hare employee, Thobeka Portia Heshula, 68, has been forced to pay R2 million back to the university after she was found to have awarded tenders worth R1.5 million to a company owned by her son Ngwengo Collin Uhuru Heshula, 41, for non-existing work.

An internal investigation by the university uncovered the alleged scheme, and through civil proceedings in Makhanda High Court, she paid back the funds with interest, totalling R2 million. 

Criminally charged

But that was not enough to get Heshula and her son off the hook as they appeared in the Alice Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday for criminal charges.

They face 53 counts of fraud, forgery and uttering. 

ALSO READ: Fort Hare University grapples with violence amid corruption clean-up efforts

The two were released on R1 000 bail. The State did not oppose bail and the case was transferred to the East London Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on 12 March 2024.

Thobeka Heshula, a retired residence operations manager at UFH, stands accused of making the payments to her son’s company in her capacity as the official responsible for appointment of service providers and authorisation of payments to those service providers.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) alleges that Thobeka Heshula had firsthand knowledge of tenders and contracts which the university needed to procure and Ngcwengo Heshula, with the advice of his mother, allegedly generated three quotations, aimed at creating misrepresentation that they were from three separate entities.


The quotations were allegedly issued under the names of either fictitious entities or entities fronting under separate names, the NPA charges in court documents. 

It said the generation of these quotations were calculated to ensure that Heshula Solutions CC or entities with ties to it, would be appointed as the favourable service provider to UFH, as they would appear to have provide the cheapest quotation. 

“The accused also allegedly authorised payments of invoices submitted by alleged entities for services that were not rendered. The wrongful and fraudulent scheme was allegedly conducted by the accused, in the period between July 2013 and March 2019,” the NPA alleged.

ALSO READ: ‘Overkill disguised as oversight’: Fort Hare VC slams state for ‘micromanaging’ universities

UFH has recently been marred by a deadly power battle emanating from allegations of tender corruption, fraud and a degree scandal.

SIU investigation

In August 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the SIU to investigate allegations of corruption and maladministration at the university – focusing on four tender contracts and the awarding of post-graduate degrees for personal gain.

This came after the university’s fleet manager, Petrus Roets, and the bodyguard of vice-chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu, Mbonise Vesele, were killed in shootings. Several other officials, including Buhlungu, were left fearing for their lives after surviving the attacks. 

READ: Fort Hare: Litany of scandals preceded VC’s assassination attempt

On 17 November 2023, a task team assembled by the national police in Pretoria to investigate the killings netted its 10th suspect – the university’s director of investigations and vetting services, Isaac Plaatjies.

10 suspects arrested

The 10 are due to appeared in the Bhisho High Court on 8 October 2024.

They are:

  • former UFH fleet officer, Bongani Peter, 51,
  • businessman who allegedly illegally benefited from UFH tenders, Sicelo Mbulawa, 28,
  • former university driver, Wanini Khuza, 69,
  • alleged hitmen Mthobisi Khanyile, 28, and Mthobisi Dlamini, 30,
  • policeman Constable Lindokuhle Manjati, 31,
  • Zimele Chiliza, 36,
  • Phelisa Nkonyeni, 31,
  • Thamsanqa Mgotyana, 47, and
  • Plaatjies, 56.

They all face two counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, reckless discharge of a firearm, theft of a motor vehicle, unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition. 

Peter, Mbulawa and Khuza are additionally charged with fraud.

NOW READ: Fort Hare’s horror ‘laptop lynching’: Court to hear six students’ bid for bail

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