Mabe tied to R49m North West ten­der

De­spite his patent and busi­ness links with trustees, the ANC of­fi­cial says he’s in­no­cent

Mail & Guardian - - News - Than­dux­olo Jika

ANC spokesper­son Pule Mabe has been im­pli­cated in an ex­tra­or­di­nary mul­ti­mil­lion­rand ten­der awarded last year by a sub­sidiary of the North West gov­ern­ment.

Mabe, who was an ANC mem­ber of Par­lia­ment at the time a R49-mil­lion ten­der was awarded to Mvest Trust by the North West De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (NWDC), was al­legedly in­ti­mately in­volved in the deal. MPs are pro­hib­ited from re­ceiv­ing any ben­e­fit from a ten­der with an or­gan of state. He and his busi­ness as­so­ciate in­sist that he had no po­si­tion in the trust that was awarded the ten­der.

But the trust holds Mabe’s patent rights for the de­vel­op­ment of an app and lists the for­mer MP’s busi­ness as­so­ciates as trustees.

The R49-mil­lion pay­ment was made in June last year.

Mvest Trust was reg­is­tered in March last year and en­tered into a ser­vice-level agree­ment with NWDC on April 4 2017. The trust sub­mit­ted an in­voice on June 14 2017 and was al­legedly paid within two days.

“That money was paid within 48 hours even though pro­cure­ment pro­cesses were not fol­lowed,” one in­sider told the Mail & Guardian on con­di­tion of anonymity. “The board de­cided to hold Pule ac­count­able and wrote a let­ter to him about this trans­ac­tion.”

The in­sider fur­ther al­leged that the pay­ment was never ap­proved by the board and was signed off by the then act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive of NWDC, Mike Mthimunye.

“Mthimunye just dis­bursed the funds even though he doesn’t have the author­ity to sign off over R49mil­lion. He was told by the [provin­cial] DG [di­rec­tor gen­eral] that he must fol­low NWDC’s in­ter­nal pro­cure­ment pro­cesses and he didn’t,” said the in­sider.

Provin­cial spokesper­son Brian Setswambung said the pay­ment was not ap­proved by di­rec­tor gen­eral Ly­dia Se­bego because the NWDC was re­spon­si­ble for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the en­tire project, in­clud­ing the pro­cure­ment of goods and ser­vices.

He said the ten­der was to es­tab­lish dry clean­ing and laun­dry ser­vices as well as en­vi­ron­men­tal projects in the prov­ince as part of the YEC ini­tia­tive, which is de­scribed as “an in­no­va­tive en­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment plat­form an­chored be­hind valid in­tel­lec­tual prop­er­ties (IP) rolled out by the Mvest Trust”.

Ac­cord­ing to the NWDC’s ex­ec­u­tive, Mvest Trust was paid for mar­ket­ing, brand­ing, re­cruit­ment, train­ing as well as in­fras­truc­ture and lo­gis­ti­cal ar­range­ments un­der YEC.

Mabe con­firmed that he had in­deed ap­peared be­fore the NWDC board with the trustees of Mvest Trust at its in­vi­ta­tion to as­sist in ex­plain­ing the en­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment model and the patent rights.

Mvest Trust doc­u­ments de­scribes it as a busi­ness that was “es­tab­lished to man­age and dis­trib­ute busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties aimed at job cre­ation and en­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment”.

The fall­out from the ten­der be­ing awarded to the Mabe-as­so­ci­ated trust in­cludes an outcry from the NWDC board. “Some of us have made it clear in the board that we will not be as­so­ci­ated with this pay­ment. We were still wait­ing to go through a proper process of [the] ap­point­ment of a ser­vice provider to do the project [but] then a pay­ment was made,” an in­sider said.

“In terms of delegation of author­ity, that amount should have gone through the board. The act­ing CEO [chief ex­ec­u­tive] had no author­ity to sign off on an amount over R5-mil­lion,” said another source fa­mil­iar with the in­ner work­ings of the NWDC.

The board, it is claimed, has also re­solved to take ac­tion against those in­volved in the trans­ac­tion.

One source in­side the NWDC said even the chair­per­son, Dali Duma, had dis­cov­ered af­ter the fact that Mvest Trust had been paid with­out pro­cure­ment pro­cesses be­ing fol­lowed.

When con­tacted for com­ment and clar­ity on the trans­ac­tion, Duma re­ferred the M&G to the of­fice of NWDC’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Tshepo Phetla, who was ap­pointed later in 2017.

Phetla’s of­fice could not pro­vide a board res­o­lu­tion that had ap­proved the ap­point­ment and pay­ment of Mvest Trust with­out go­ing through a ten­der process.

In­stead, the NWDC pro­duced a board ap­proval of the con­cept of YEC.

“A close-up re­port has been fi­nalised and re­viewed by the management of the NWDC. It will be pre­sented to the board dur­ing its next meet­ing ,” Phetla’s of­fice said.

Mabe’s in­volve­ment first raised eye­brows when his busi­ness as­so­ciates, Tinyiko Mahuntsi and Eu­len­der Rakoma, were al­legedly hand­picked af­ter mak­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion in Premier Supra Mahumapelo’s of­fice in Jan­uary last year prior to the reg­is­tra­tion of Mvest Trust.

Mahuntsi and Rakoma were also co-di­rec­tors in another en­tity called En­viro Mobi, from which Mabe re­signed only in Jan­uary this year.

Records fur­ther in­di­cate that Mahuntsi had pre­vi­ously worked at Mabe’s KG Me­dia, the com­pany that the pub­lic pro­tec­tor found had been im­prop­erly awarded a con­tract by the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) to pro­duce Ham­banathi magazine. The con­tract was un­law­fully ex­tended.

Last year Mabe was fined 15 days of his salary and rep­ri­manded by Par­lia­ment for flout­ing the mem­bers’ code of con­duct.

The code of MPs pro­hibits par­lia­men­tar­i­ans from “re­ceiv­ing any ben­e­fit in­clud­ing but not lim­ited to a ten­der or a con­tract with an or­gan of state”. They are also re­quired to de­clare their di­rec­tor­ships.

The patent, his close busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tion with the trustees and his ap­pear­ance be­fore the board of di­rec­tors sug­gest he was in­ti­mately in­volved in the R49-mil­lion deal.

But Mahuntsi in­sists Mabe had no role in the Mvest Trust.

“Mr Mabe has got no role un­less in in­stances wherein the use or mod­i­fi­ca­tions of patents is re­quired for a spe­cific en­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment as­sign­ment,” he said.

Mabe said his in­volve­ment was only as a “patent holder” because Mvest Trust uses the li­cence rights of Mvest Pty Ltd, his own com­pany.

“I have never been on record as say­ing I am not in­volved. It will be ir­re­spon­si­ble of me to cre­ate in­no­va­tions and re­nege from my own ideas, which are meant to fa­cil­i­tate eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. I have worked with the trustees of the Mvest Trust and it is the bonds of trust and con­fi­dence that made me believe that they would be ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing. They also worked on these things in the past and this was part of em­pow­er­ing them to be able to take an en­ter­prise de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tive on their own,” said Mabe.

He de­nied claims that he used his po­lit­i­cal influence to en­sure that his busi­ness as­so­ciates were ap­pointed by the NWDC because of his prox­im­ity to Mahumapelo.

“I have not gone out my­self to im­pose my­self or those en­ti­ties that are li­censed to dis­trib­ute these op­por­tu­ni­ties to any pub­lic sec­tor in­sti­tu­tions. I did de­clare my in­ter­ests in the patents as a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment.

“I don’t hide my­self just because there is some­thing about ‘Supra must go’ and then pre­tend as if that ev­ery­thing done un­der him was not qual­i­fied … I am earn­ing an in­cen­tive as a de­vel­oper,” said Mabe.

Patent prob­lem: De­spite be­ing an MP at the time, Pule Mabe has been linked to a trust that re­ceived a lu­cra­tive ten­der from a North West gov­ern­ment en­tity.

Photo: Dino Lloyd/Gallo Images

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