Our investigations were made for prime time. Reintroducing the AmaBhungane reports that stole the show.
City Power's not-so-smart tender
Jo'burgers have been gatvol for years over vastly inaccurate electricity bills. So Jo'burg City Power issued the city's biggest ever tender for smart meters that would fix the problem once and for all.
The problem was its tender process was not very smart.
AmaBhungane uncovered detailed allegations that some numbers were switched around allegedly to give presidential sponsor Vivian Reddy's company a higher score.
By doing this, City Power turned the lights out for a rival bidder that had offered similar meters at half the cost. Then someone at City Power got their wires crossed, sending Reddy a letter to tell him he'd won. Only the tender had not been signed off yet. The final jolt was when Reddy got the entire contract for himself, whereas City Power’s tender committee had recommended that he share with someone else.
Reddy zapped amaBhungane by reporting our story about the tender process to the press ombudsman, saying he was being unfairly portrayed as corrupt. The ombudsman cleared us on all counts, mainly because we have always said we have no proof Reddy himself did anything wrong.
Strangely, City Power investigated the tender process – without stopping it, so they're still paying Reddy millions for the contract. But what will happen when the public protector investigates?
Law and disorder: Cops get creative
Although our police and prosecuting authority generally come under fire for lack of training, misleading crime stats, or losing important cases, they must get credit where credit is due.
Both branches of our justice portfolio must be recognised for their exemplary aptitude for inventiveness and creativity with information.
The year started with an outstanding performance from the head of the National Prosecuting Authority's commercial crimes unit, Lawrence Mrwebi. His mastery in weaving fact and fiction was displayed during the internal disciplinary hearing of thorn-in-his-side Glynnis Breytenbach.
The plucky prosecutor (who was cleared because there was not "an iota of evidence" against her) had become a pest to Mrwebi earlier in 2012, when she refused to let go of a corruption case against crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.
Charges of both corruption and attempted murder against Mdluli were withdrawn, mostly based on an ambiguous assortment of personal opinions Mrwebi proffered.
But it didn't end there. In September, Judge John Murphy, who did not appreciate Mrwebi’s talent for creativity, ruled that all criminal charges should be reinstated against Mdluli, adding that there had been political interference. The judge also took aim at Jiba, Mrwebi and national police commissioner Riah Phiyega, whose evidence was all but laughed out of court.
And it looks as though the year is ending as brilliantly as it began, with Mdluli opening a case of intimidation against Breytenbach and a Hawks investigator based on claims that they are behind a plot either to kill him or to fabricate a murder conspiracy against him.
Gang-bangin' with the big Czech and his mates!
A deadly bomb blast at Radovan Krejcir's Bedfordview gold and diamond exchange shop, Money Point, in November killed two of his associates and shook Johannesburg's underworld to its core.
And the Czech fugitive who has called Bedfordview (aka Deadfordview) home since 2007 is now at the centre of a major police investigation.
At least 12 people associated in various ways with Krejcir have been killed since he arrived in South Africa, the East Rand has turned into a hotbed of gangland hits (an alleged associate of Krejcir's was shot at over 30 times and killed in an apparent hit in October), James Bond-style assassination attempts (in July, Krejcir was fired at from a VW Polo fitted with gun barrels as he got out of his bulletproof car) and explosions.
It was the blast that finally seemed to get the cops’ attention: last month Krejcir was arrested on kidnapping and attempted murder charges, and police claimed that he was involved in the torture of a man over a R25-million drug deal.
Two Hawks policemen were arrested alongside Krejcir and have been charged for their alleged involvement in the same incident.
Is it only a matter of time before Krejcir's gangster paradise becomes his prison?
The great crude cash con
As if one oil scandal was not enough for this country, earlier this year amaBhungane emptied the gas canister on two dubious mega-deals involving our national oil company PetroSA.
Mostly under the leadership of PetroSA's former acting chief executive Yekani Tenza, the parastatal spent or risked up to R1-billion in fuelish transactions.
One part of the billion-rand scandal related to a purchase by PetroSA last year of a company with crude oil acreage in Ghana. The second greasy deal was linked to a cunning plan by the state-owned company to buy Engen. Were fingers dipping into oil wells? The fingerprints smeared across both scenes led to the doors of a lawyer, a fund manager and Tenza himself.
In the Ghana deal Tenza and colleagues allegedly negotiated backwards, and PetroSA ended up paying an extra $20-million for the company.
Once this had been "negotiated" R11.4-million sloshed into the tank of the lawyer George Sabelo's firm.
Sabelo (who is said to have ties to some Zuma family members) was also due to cash in R3-million on the Engen deal but his claim for the cash was suddenly and suspiciously dropped when PetroSA staff questioned the payment.
With the Engen saga it seemed as if PetroSA was not concerned about cash, because it merrily paid R19-million for cancelling the services of its advisor HSBC, replacing it with another company set to get about R187-million on completion of the deal. Needless to say PetroSA's oily past continues to catch up with it.
The tokoloshe that screwed the golden deal
An unknown but apparently "mischievous" tokoloshe has played havoc this year with an investigation into a R2.1-billion 2010 Gold Fields empowerment deal.
The deal, which caused a storm from its inception for allegedly steering rewards towards "connected" people, was whipped back into a controversial circle in September.
It was then that amaBhungane revealed scandalous claims that ANC leading lady Baleka Mbete's stake in the mining company unexpectedly swelled tenfold, after alleged threats that the company's gleaming treasure would otherwise vanish in the night.
The threats apparently came courtesy of Mbete's so-called "cat's-paw" Brian Mosehla, (who also courted controversy over his alleged links to a disputed award of a state tender to distribute social grants). And shocking details of alleged bribery were outlined in a presentation to the Gold Fields's board this year after a team of occult investigators led by Paul Weiss, a top New York law firm (Gold Fields has a secondary listing on the New York Stock Exchange) took a closer look at the deal.
Paul Weiss alleged that Mbete's mammoth share allocation was tantamount to bribery, though the ghoul squad did not investigate whether Mbete had herself consorted with this creature of the night (Mosehla [tokoloshe]). It was suggested to Gold Fields that it report itself to the authorities.
But the company ultimately decided against having the findings written up, arguably helping Gold Fields to avoid them being publicised. The investigators also criticised the "lack of credibility" and "inappropriate behaviour" of Gold Fields chief executive Nick Holland and company attorney Michael Fleischer, who were accused of hiding critical information.
Bullshit flung at dung rollers
The spell of a sorceress might be the only plausible explanation for bizarre hints made in August that the CIA is funding the Mail & Guardian newspaper. (Obviously Mossad funds us.)
South Africa's newest muckraker owner, the indomitably dominating Iqbal Survé, made the insinuation when he was asked about the structure of his consortium, which had bought the Independent group.
Survé, like any good journalist, claimed his allegation was based on "high-level" and "factual" information he had received.
Survé's Sekunjalo Independent Media consortium bought 55% of Independent News and Media South Africa alongside the state-owned Public Investment Corporation and two Chinese-owned companies.
It was a question about Chinese control over the consortium that really seemed to unleash from Survé the use of the word "bullshit" an inordinate number of times.
Survé told amaBhungane journalist Craig McKune, whose very job is to dig up dung, a lucky 13 times that claims of Chinese control were "bullshit". McKune rolled it up in a ball and slung it right back at 'em.
Free State's politically pasteurised milk
It's unclear whether the milk to be liberated from at least 1 000 dairy cows destined for a dairy processing plant will genuinely benefit the Free State farming community near Vrede. What has become clear, however, is that the proposed cash cow – announced in February by premier Ace Magashule – is teetering closely in line with business interests of the jet-setting Gupta family.
The project, defined as a public-private partnership, is between the Free State government and a one-man-run [Kamal Vasram] company called Estina.
Magashule, a pal of the Guptas and an ally of president Jacob Zuma, said the facility would be able to process 100 000 litres of milk a day – although he did not explain the choice of dairy, considering Vrede is known for beef.
While the benefit is promised to small farmers who are meant to receive a “donation” of about 500 cows and then supply the plant with milk, the project’s structure really means that South Africans carry the cost of Estina’s privileged treatment, due to the government’s donation of a ginormous piece of farmland, rent-free plus a (plus/minus) R400-million creamy morsel to keep it running smoothly.
While the Guptas admitted that one of their subsidiary companies was briefly subcontracted in on the project, the family rejected it had any links to Estina; all this despite a discovery by amaBhungane that Estina’s registered address is in the same Sandton building as several Gupta-owned businesses. Coincidence? Or some seriously sour milk?
Home is where the heli-pad is
Lies, denials, half-truths, court threats and secrecy have come to define one man and his castle. Shocking revelations that President Jacob Zuma personally benefited from close to R20-million for work done on his Nkandla home-cum-estate have unleashed an abundance of emotions from a country on the eve of a national election.
For Number One’s personal safety and security a chicken coop, a swimming pool, a visitors’ centre, an amphitheatre, a cattle kraal or two and a marquee area were built.
A provisional report by ballsy public protector Thuli Madonsela on spending at the opulent Nkandla sprawl (details of which were published by this newspaper) found that Zuma must repay the state for building work unrelated to his security.
Among the more elaborate expenses covered by the taxpayer relate to landscaping. In January 2011, the landscaping aspect of the Nkandla security up-grade was costed at R17-million; R5.6-million of that was allocated for Zuma’s own pocket. By June his portion had withered to just under R1.5-million. It appears that Zuma has yet to pay the state any of it.
But what could really prove to be the most cataclysmic failure for Zuma is a provisional finding that he misled Parliament last year and possibly hoodwinked the public into believing that he and his family had paid for non-security structures.
Although there was a need for security improvements to Nkandla following Zuma’s ascension to the presidency in 2009, news that the initial cost to upgrade the security helicoptered from a poultry (ahem) R27-million to over R215-million – with more still to come – has sent the country into a tailspin.
As the battle for the truth rages on, this could be a case of the chickens coming home to roost in their very own Nkandla coop.