Another day and another scandal in South African Politics. This time it’s millions of rands being given to friends of our president.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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