One afternoon in late 2011 an employee of a Polokwane businessman sat in a car at a dusty construction site in the suburb of Welgelegen – and waited.
After a while, two men approached in the car, the employee got out and went to the driver’s side window. The driver wound down the window, took the proffered bag stuffed with cash and promptly left.
The man who took the cash was Lesiba Gwangwa, the boss of On-Point Engineering.
His passenger was Julius Malema.
At the time, Malema was the president of the ANC Youth League. He was expelled from the ANC in 2012. Gwangwa, an engineer, has been described as his friend.
It is unclear if the cash in the bag was for his benefit, but it is clear that Gwangwa’s employee would, during the course of 2011 and 2012, on several occasions deposit money into a bank account registered to the Ratanang Family Trust. The total amount of Malema’s alleged windfall runs well into the millions.
These explosive allegations are contained in a never-seen-before affidavit one of Gwangwa’s employees deposed to, which News24 has obtained, and it sets out, in even greater detail, that Malema’s lifestyle was funded by Gwangwa with money from Limpopo’s public coffers.
Malema refused to respond to a list of questions sent to him last week.
Through Ratanang, Malema held an indirect shareholding in On-Point Engineering, a company that was awarded a R50m tender by the Limpopo Department of Roads and Transport in 2009 to run the department’s project management unit. On-Point sat on the bid evaluation committee that decided who would be awarded department tenders.
According to the original 2012 charge sheet the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) drew up, Malema’s Ratanang was paid R3.1m by On-Point, R1m by a service provider On-Point had appointed in its role of project manager and he received the Schuilkraal farm at a value of R3.9m.
These service providers, the original 2012 charge sheet shows, made payments to companies owned by Gwangwa’s Guilder Group, and some of these funds were used for Malema’s benefit.
Over and above the cash payments to Ratanang, which in 2012 was among the reasons the NPA charged Malema with corruption, this new evidence suggests that Malema may have gotten far more from Gwangwa and his companies than was originally thought.
From a R1m Mercedes Benz Viano, tyres for his luxury German sedan, a chartered jet, holidays in Zimbali and even legal fees, Malema seemingly wanted for nothing.
One payment from a service provider On-Point was involved in appointing, was made to a Mercedes dealership and this payment formed part of the original 2012 charge sheet, but the new affidavit sets out in detail that the full amount for the Viano was paid via various entities under Gwangwa’s control.
As a result of the alleged On-Point scheme, Malema, Gwangwa as well as another director of On-Point, Kagisho Dichabe, made multiple appearances before the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane on charges relating to alleged fraud, corruption, racketeering and money laundering.
Malema was dragged before a tax inquiry by the South African Revenue Service resulting in a substantial tax assessment of R16m being raised against him for failing to declare his income properly between 2005 and 2011.
In August 2015, the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit finalised the auctioning of Malema’s farm, Schuilkraal, which the NPA alleged was acquired by or for Malema through a “money laundering scheme”.
Also in 2015 the Polokwane judge, Billy Mothle, decided he would not allow the NPA to seek another postponement and he struck the case from the roll on August 4.
Now more than four years later, acting national deputy director of public prosecutions for Gauteng, advocate George Baloyi, wrote to AfriForum’s Kallie Kriel earlier this month, confirming that charges had been reinstated against Gwangwa, the company On-Point and Dichabe.
Malema and Gwangwa co-owned On-Point – Malema’s shareholding was held through the Ratanang Family Trust, and Gwangwa’s through the Gwangwa Family Trust, both of which held shares in Guilder Investments, which in turn owned 100% of On-Point
But, Baloyi’s letter confirmed, Malema would not be in the dock.
This affidavit, deposed by a former employee of Gwangwa’s in July 2012 and provided to law enforcement agencies involved in the legal proceedings around Malema’s financial affairs has revealed new evidence of his alleged involvement in corruption and poses more questions about the NPA’s dropping of charges against the EFF leader.
The affidavit suggests that Gwangwa took care of Malema’s every need, from paying the attorney’s transfer costs (R986 418) for the purchase of his farm Schuilkraal that was later seized and the costs of the architects (Cimado Moroldo Architects) that designed Malema’s Sandown mansion, that was also later auctioned to pay his tax bill.
The affidavit further alleges that, over and above at least 12 payments in cash to Ratanang, Gwangwa through his various companies also provided the following alleged benefits to Malema:
- Bought and maintained a black Mercedes Benz Viano minibus used by Malema at a cost of nearly R1m in August 2011
- Paid for the construction costs of Malema’s Sandown mansion as of February 2011. The house was later auctioned for R5m to pay Malema’s tax bill
- Paid for Malema’s bodyguards from February 2011
- Bought and maintained a Ford Focus used by Malema’s bodyguards in Polokwane, and a Polo Vivo used in Johannesburg
- Malema and his bodyguards had full use of a petrol card registered to On-Point
- Bought and maintained a Chevrolet Spark used by a “Tumi” in Johannesburg
- Bought Malema designer clothing, including one shopping trip to the value of R100 000 at boutique outlet Vigano
- Made numerous payments to Brian Khan, an attorney Malema used during his tax inquiry. Funds were later paid from Khan to SARS as part of a settlement of Malema’s tax affairs, but SARS later revoked the settlement on the basis that Malema was not honest about the source of the funds
- Chartered a jet for Malema in July 2011 at a cost of R88 000 and paid for holiday accommodation at Zimbali, as well as various other travel and accommodation costs
- In August 2011, a Gwangwa company paid the salaries of Malema’s housekeeper and gardener
- In October 2011, Gwangwa paid for Malema’s legal fees in respect of an urgent interdict Malema wanted to bring against City Press to stop the publication of an article related directly to allegations of corruption involving Malema, On Point and Gwangwa. Malema’s application failed, and he was ordered to pay costs for Media24, City Press’ parent company
- Rented vehicles from Badiredi Travel for Malema’s bodyguards as and when needed
- Paid Schuilkraal farm’s electricity bill
- Bought R135 000 worth of furniture for Malema’s home in January 2011
- Paid for repairs on a Mini Cooper used by Malema in August 2011
- Paid for Malema’s auditors, SAB&T
The employee’s evidence sits in stark contrast to historical denials by Malema and Gwangwa. Malema, it had been believed, benefited from On-Point because he was a shareholder through the Ratanang Family Trust.
But the employee claims many of the services Gwangwa paid for were not from the On-Point account – instead, other companies in his Guilder Group picked up the tab.
Malema did not respond to a series of questions e-mailed to him and his long-time attorney Ian Levitt last week, in which explanations for the various costs Gwangwa carried for him were sought. Gwangwa similarly did not respond at the time of writing.
The NPA, through spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane, would also not respond to detailed questions over its decision to forestall Malema’s prosecution.
No response was forthcoming when News24 asked whether the NPA was afraid to prosecute Malema or if the evidence at its disposal had changed in a material way since the matter was struck off the roll in 2015.
Instead, Mjonondwane said, Malema’s tax affairs and “the alleged benefits of the proceeds of unlawful activities from On-Point Engineering are not essential elements of the crime of fraud which was committed against the Limpopo Department of Roads and Transport”.
In other words, while Gwangwa may have used public money paid to On-Point to pay Malema’s expenses, the NPA was not of the opinion these facts were crucial to prove On-Point committed fraud.
“It would be inappropriate to discuss the merits/facts of the matter and subject the would-be accused [Malema] to a trial through the media,” Mjonondwane added.
“The management of the Ratanang trust funds by Mr Malema is the subject of ongoing investigation. A decision whether to prosecute regarding those activities will be taken once the investigations have been completed,” she said.
The NPA would not respond to further questions seeking clarity on why it had previously charged Malema but won’t reinstate charges against him now.
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