| SOUTH AFRICA

Mystery fires destroy cars on premises of Lottery corruption witnesses

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Police investigating arson in both cases

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This bakkie was burnt on the premises of a drug rehabilitation unit owned by a witness in the Lottery corruption probe. Days later, the car of another witness was burned at her home. Photo: supplied

Vehicles belonging to two people who have given affidavits to investigators probing Lottery corruption were destroyed in fires in strikingly similar circumstances just two days apart.

The fires were at a drug rehabilitation unit that is at the centre of a dodgy R27.5 million Lottery grant, and at the home of Takelani Tshikalange, the director of a dormant NPO that was hijacked and used to apply for the grant.

Both Tshikalange and Ado Krige, the owner of House Regeneration where the drug rehab is situated, had recently given sworn affidavits to investigators appointed by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) to probe allegations of fraud, corruption and conflicts of interest involving several multimillion-rand Lottery grants.

Police are investigating arson in both cases, said a source close to the investigations, who asked not to be named as he did not have permission to speak to the media. In both incidents, petrol was poured on the rear wheel closest to the petrol tanks of the vehicle before being set alight.

The fire at the rehab started about midnight on Sunday and the one at Tshikalange’s home was also about midnight, two days later on Tuesday.

Both have made statements to police about the fires, which are being investigated as possible arson. Tshikalange reported the incident at her home to the Olifantsfontein Police Station near Midrand. Krige reported the fire at the centre to the Kameeldrift Police Station outside Pretoria.

Tshikalange said she and her husband were woken around midnight by the flames from their burning car. “It was very frightening, the car was totally destroyed by the fire,” she said. “I am very scared about what has happened but I have no regrets about speaking out.”

Arrangements were being hurriedly being made yesterday for protection for Tshikalange and her family, including the possibility of moving them to a “safe house”, according to two different sources who asked not to be named as they were not allowed to speak to the media.

Krige said that a young woman living in a flatlet attached to the main house on the drug rehab property was woken around midnight on Sunday by a loud bang. “It was probably the tyre bursting and when she looked outside she saw one of our vehicles in flames,” he said. “She alerted others and they managed to move two other vehicles parked next to the one that was on fire.”

Attempts to put out the fire with fire extinguishers were unsuccessful and it was finally extinguished by the fire brigade, Krige said. The car that was set alight was completely destroyed and there is R12,000 damage to a car that was parked next to it, he said.

“It was very fortunate that the fire did not spread to the main house.”

Krige said that the firemen on the scene had said that the fire had been “started on purpose and was obviously arson”.

“We refuse to be intimidated by whoever is behind this,” he said.

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TOPICS:  Corruption National Lotteries Commission

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