Windhoek-More teachers have been arrested for allegedly defrauding the government of N$10 million. The majority was, however, granted N$20,000 each bail when they made their first appearance in the Katima Mulilo Magistrate’s Court since last week.
The police crime investigations coordinator for Zambezi, Deputy Commissioner Evans Simasiku, said arrests so far have risen to 26 suspects from the initial 22 arrested a week ago. The additional four suspects already appeared in the same court where they were granted bail of N$20 000 each.
These are Alphosina Manga Simbuya, Alma Matiti, Mtema Janet Chikali and Libetwa Mathews Simalumba.
Only 24 out of the 26 suspects were granted bail, leaving the other two behind bars.
Those who were denied bail are Boschof Masule and Frances Lisao, who are believed to have been the masterminds in the crime.
They allegedly facilitated the transactions.
“These two were the masterminds working at the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture at the finance office in Katima,” Simasiku said. Masule is employed as an accountant at the finance department. Lisao previously worked in the same department as an accountant, but has resigned.
The teachers stand accused of fraud, money laundering, alternatively theft, and contravening the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) by defrauding the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture between 2011 and 2016. Masule and Lisao face two extra charges of forgery and corruptly using their offices for gratification.
In opposing bail for the duo, the State argued that the amount involved was too big and should they be granted bail they may interfere with ongoing investigations.
During their first court appearance last week, State Prosecutor George Matali proposed that the suspects be given bail of N$30 000 each.
Inonge Mainga, representing some of the accused persons, pleaded with the magistrate that the prosecutor’s proposed bail was too high.
She argued that bail should not serve as punishment, but should be granted to allow the accused persons to go out and return for trial.
Mainga also argued that given that they are teachers and their salaries are not that much, they might not be able to pay the bail amount proposed.
She said although the amount in question was high, if broken down to how much each individual got it will not be that much.
Matali however objected to this line of reasoning.
He pointed out that although the State knew how much each individual got, they could not yet divulge such information before court. He, however, revealed one of the so-called ghost teachers received N$222 000, while the highest amount involved around N$570 000 received between January 2012 and June 2016.
“The issue of their salary notch is out of our hands… What is crucial here is that the accused persons are being granted bail. We could have easily objected to bail, or we could have set it at N$100 000, because there is no fixed amount for bail,” Matali told the court.
It was after this deliberation that Magistrate Nomsa Kumalo granted the 24 accused persons bail of N$20 000 each. Among them is a retired teacher, an administrator and the majority are employed as teachers by the education ministry.
Bail was granted on condition that they cannot leave the Zambezi Region without notifying the investigating officers; that they do not go near the ministry’s salary office in Katima Mulilo; and that they do not interfere with state witnesses.
The case was then postponed to 4 December to allow for further investigations, as it is believed more arrests will follow.
The postponement also gives an opportunity to those who want to find their own legal representatives and those who want to apply for legal aid to do so.