The immigration officers who were arrested last week on Thursday at Maseru Border post near Ladybrand will remain in custody.
The 20 officials, along with five others, appeared before Ladybrand Magistrate Johann van Zyl on Monday 3 October 2016 under a heavy police guard inside and outside the courtroom.
They are facing various charges including corruption, contravening the Immigration Act, defeating the ends of justice and money laundering.
Mmaphuti Irene Nkoko (28), Andreas Tutulu Tinte (50), Ben Michael Libe (49), Tumelo Victor Selialia (39) (there is a pending case in the Ladybrand Regional Court against him as he was arrested at Maseru Border Post late last year), Lebogang Leonard Melesi (32), Lebohang Victor Ndlovu (28), Thabo Israel Hlalele (29), Mokete Ishamel Moshane (32), Paulina Dikeledi Maleka (31), Abram Sello Mokgafola (41), Thabiso Vincent Molakgosi (41), Kenneth Siphiwe Seweephe (28), Ntswaki Precious Masia (34), Caldonia Lerato Lebaka (32), Mashungu Perpetua Melato (41), Tefo Samuel Molelle (36), Phindiwe Yvonne Mhlambi (41), Thabiso James Vava (33), Jerry Surgon Diphoko (34), Lehlohonolo Enoch Machere (39), Wynand Eddie Kouveldt (40), Setjkek Khalieli (26), Dimakatso Mpheshea (47), Moses Motjoka Mokhosane (50) and Ramabaki Osie Matsese.
The State opposed the release on bail of all the accused arguing they had not yet met the investigating officer. The State further said that it had a strong case against all the accused (video and audio).
Hawks National Spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudi said the accused, along with five Basotho nationals were arrested by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) on Thursday over suspicion of corruption during the termination of Project Cone which was registered in 2015 to curb fraud and corruption at the border post.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba was present during the raid, and he warned against any officials hoping to make money by abusing their positions.
It is alleged that the Home Affairs officials together with their runners pocketed thousands of rand by endorsing expired passports or any travel documents from Basotho nationals crossing over into South Africa.
With the assistance of Crime Intelligence, entrapment operations were launched which resulted in the identification of the 25 suspects.
The suspects were arrested while on duty while the others who were off duty handed themselves over to the Hawks.
Their runners were also arrested at their “trading” spot.
The national head of the Hawks Lieutenant General Mthandazo Ntlemeza has welcomed the arrests and vowed the Hawks will leave no stone unturned when it comes to fighting corruption.
“The time is ripe to be talking about removing the cancer of corruption in government. Be warned against the craving to make money by illegal means which is continuously eating into our everyday life is over.
Magistrate Johann van Zyl reminded the matter to the 10 and 11 October 2016 for a formal bail application.
“I should not have the need to remind government officials that they must at all times conduct the affairs of the country with the highest level of integrity. It is important that I repeat it. Corruption will not be tolerated in government. It’s either you shape up or ship out,” he declared.