Zuma bud­dies score R80m

Prasa probe un­cov­ers pos­si­ble signs of ‘ mas­sive cor­rup­tion’ in­volv­ing lo­co­mo­tive firm

CityPress - - Front Page - PI­ETER-LOUIS MY­BURGH news@city­press.co.za

Ques­tion­able pay­ments to­talling nearly R80 mil­lion were made to an An­golan busi­ness­woman who is a close friend of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, and a lawyer who is the busi­ness part­ner of one of the pres­i­dent’s sons. In­ves­ti­ga­tors prob­ing the multi­bil­lion-rand lo­co­mo­tive ten­der is­sued by the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) have un­cov­ered what they call pos­si­ble signs of “mas­sive cor­rup­tion”.

An­golan busi­ness­woman Maria da Cruz Gomes, who Zuma has vis­ited in her plush home in a Sand­ton com­plex, re­ceived pay­ments to­talling about R40 mil­lion from the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Swifambo Rail Leas­ing, the com­pany ap­pointed in 2012 to sup­ply Span­ish lo­co­mo­tives worth R3.5 bil­lion.

Swifambo’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Auswell Mashaba, also paid about R40 mil­lion to the law firm be­long­ing to lawyer Ge­orge Sa­belo, a busi­ness part­ner of Zuma’s el­dest son, Ed­ward. Sa­belo was in­volved in the 2013 PetroSA cor­rup­tion scan­dal.

Sources with di­rect in­sight into Prasa’s probe into the deal, along with oth­ers close to the po­lice’s Hawks unit, con­firmed that th­ese pay­ments to Gomes’ com­pany and Sa­belo’s law firm form part of an ex­ten­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Prasa’s fi­nan­cial ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the term in of­fice of for­mer Prasa CEO Lucky Mon­tana.

How­ever, speak­ing through his spokesper­son Vuyo Mkhize, Mashaba strongly de­nied that the pay­ments to Gomes’ com­pany had any­thing to do with the Prasa ten­der.

Mkhize said Sa­belo’s law firm was one of more than 15 pro­fes­sional com­pa­nies on Swifambo’s books that spe­cialised in var­i­ous dis­ci­plines.

He also said City Press sis­ter pa­per Rap­port’s “fix­a­tion” with the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Swifambo and the law firm was in­dica­tive of the pa­per’s prej­u­dice against Sa­belo.

But Gomes – who con­firmed this week that she and Zuma were “like fam­ily” and that they had known each other for years – said her com­pany, Sim­i­lex, had done work for the Prasa con­tract.

Doc­u­ments Rap­port has ob­tained show that be­tween Jan­uary and May 2014, Mashaba made sep­a­rate pay­ments to­talling R40 mil­lion to the bank ac­count of Sim­i­lex, which is reg­is­tered in South Africa.

Gomes and her hus­band, Domin­gos, are listed as the com­pany’s only di­rec­tors.

An af­fi­davit de­posed by one of the in­ves­ti­ga­tors in the probe, a copy of which Rap­port has ob­tained, re­veals that Mashaba al­legedly ad­mit­ted dur­ing a meet­ing be­tween him­self and two Prasa board mem­bers that he had been “in­structed” be­tween 2013 and 2014 to make pay­ments to “high-rank­ing peo­ple in of­fice” and mem­bers of “the move­ment”. This was af­ter Swifambo Rail Leas­ing re­ceived its first pay­ment of R460 mil­lion from Prasa in April 2013.

The af­fi­davit also re­veals that Mashaba ad­mit­ted dur­ing the meet­ing that he was con­cerned about the pay­ments be­cause they ap­par­ently had noth­ing to do with the pur­chase of lo­co­mo­tives.

Mashaba al­legedly said af­ter the meet­ing took place that Gomes once showed him a pic­ture of her­self with Zuma when he asked her why he had to trans­fer money to her com­pany.

Some of Mashaba’s al­le­ga­tions made at the time are con­tained in an af­fi­davit that now forms part of the Hawks’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion. How­ever, Mkhize strongly de­nied this. Re­spond­ing to the al­le­ga­tion that Gomes por­trayed her­self as Zuma’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Mkhize said: “This is noth­ing more than a fan­tas­tic fab­ri­ca­tion de­signed to add a di­men­sion of al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion, in­clud­ing wide­spread political cor­rup­tion, to the at­tempt to can­cel Swifambo’s Prasa con­tract.”

Mkhize con­firmed Mashaba had met with Prasa di­rec­tors, but strongly de­nied that Mashaba was forced to make pay­ments to high-rank­ing politi­cians.

To date, Prasa paid al­most R3 bil­lion to Mashaba’s com­pany, but the only thing tax­pay­ers have to show for it is the 13 Afro 4000 lo­co­mo­tives Swifambo im­ported from Spain, which were found to be too high for South Africa’s rail sys­tem.

Neigh­bours in Gomes’ up-mar­ket com­plex in Atholl said Zuma had vis­ited her at least five times over the past three years. One said the pres­i­dent ar­rived in a large blue-light con­voy with po­lice ve­hi­cles and se­cu­rity per­son­nel, and stayed for be­tween one and two hours.

Speak­ing from An­gola this week, Gomes con­firmed Zuma’s vis­its and said they had been friends since the days when the ANC had train­ing camps in her coun­try.

“We are fam­ily friends; we are ac­tu­ally more like fam­ily. We laugh and talk about our chil­dren when we get to­gether,” said Gomes.

Gomes said Mashaba paid Sim­i­lex be­cause the com­pany had done some work for Swifambo.

“We did some work for that con­tract [the Prasa ten­der], but I can­not re­mem­ber the de­tails. I will get one of my di­rec­tors who was in­volved to con­tact you to give you more de­tails,” she said.

How­ever, no ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion was forth­com­ing on the na­ture of the work her com­pany sup­pos­edly per­formed for Swifambo.

Doc­u­ments show that Mashaba trans­ferred just un­der R39 mil­lion to law firm Nkosi Sa­belo in April and May 2013.

In March 2013 – two weeks be­fore Prasa made its first pay­ment to Swifambo – Ge­orge Sa­belo, one of the firm’s two di­rec­tors, said in an email to Mashaba, which Rap­port has seen, that his “clients” wanted the “agree­ments” signed as soon as pos­si­ble.

It is not clear in the email who th­ese clients were. Af­ter that, Mashaba paid R38.9 mil­lion to Nkosi Sa­belo in three sep­a­rate pay­ments.

Sa­belo hit the head­lines in 2013 when the Mail & Guardian re­vealed that he had chan­nelled “suc­cess fees” to­talling R11 mil­lion from PetroSA to an “un­known third party”.

The news­pa­per re­ported that there were ru­mours at the time that Sa­belo had a “di­rect line” to Zuma and ad­vised the pres­i­dent’s chil­dren.

Yekani Tenza, PetroSA’s for­mer CEO, who was also in­volved in the scan­dal, was re­ported as sug­gest­ing at the time that a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the money trail would cause a “na­tional em­bar­rass­ment” be­cause “big names” were in­volved, the Mail & Guardian re­ported.

Ac­cord­ing to com­pany records, Sa­belo and Ed­ward Zuma are both di­rec­tors of a com­pany called Sizwe Sethu Coal.

Sikhum­buzo Selby Zuma, Zuma’s fam­ily spokesper­son dur­ing his rape trial in 2005, is also a di­rec­tor of the com­pany.

Hawks spokesper­son Bri­gadier Hang­wani Mu­laudzi de­clined to com­ment.

“The mat­ter is at a sen­si­tive stage and, un­for­tu­nately, we can­not com­ment on on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” he said.

Sa­belo did not re­spond to nu­mer­ous re­quests for com­ment this week made to his cell­phone and via SMS, which he re­ceived and read.

Zuma’s spokesper­son, Bon­gani Ma­jola, also did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Ma­jola said in a What­sApp mes­sage on Fri­day that he would deal with the en­quiries, but did not re­spond.

PHOTO: NOVAANGOSPENCER.COM

BUDDY NUM­BER 1 Maria da Cruz Gomes, Pres­i­dent Zuma’s

friend

PHOTO: DEON RAATH

LUX­URY LIV­ING Cot­ton­fields Es­tate, where Pres­i­dent Zuma vis­ited Maria da Cruz Gomes

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.