A chequered career

Mpumalanga strongman Steve Mabona doesn’t like being trifled with. His violent temper and sharp tongue are legendary, with not even uniformed cops or magistrates safe from public tongue-lashings.

Those who dare take him on, like chief magistrate Heinrich Moldenhauer, are publicly branded as racist or evil.

The bluster has done little, however, to obscure his chequered past.

Building on his reputation as an iron-fisted Bantustan minister, Mabona transformed his toothless safety and security portfolio into a hotbed for populist causes immediately after 1994.

He also dived into the murkier world of commerce, building a substantial retail and property business empire centred on his sprawling home in Gauteng’s upmarket Bryanston suburb.

The wheeling and dealing include his still unexplained relationship with the shady brokers behind Mpumalanga’s rash of promissory note scams in the late 1990s.

Two of his fellow provincial ministers lost their jobs as a result of the scams, but Mabona was never formally probed — despite travelling abroad with the mastermind behind one $20-million scam at the Lapelle Water Board in October and December 1997.

The trips, with Lance Burcham-Flowerdew, were made in Mabona’s white Volvo with registration number DDK611GP. The car is one of a fleet of 20 registered in Mabona’s name on police databases, with most of the newer and flashier sedans purchased during 1996/98.

His apparent passion for fast cars saw Mabona charged with attempted murder in 1995, when a Pretoria traffic cop claimed the “arrogant” politician tried to run him down during a speeding dispute.

Mabona and his bodyguard were arrested, but charges were dropped after Mabona lodged a counter charge of crimen injuria and the dispute was settled out of court.

His taste for the good life was again centre stage in 1997 when a special forensic audit by the auditor general chronicled a spending spree that cost taxpayers more than R300 000 in one year.

Mabona’s splurge included chartered plane trips, luxury vehicle rentals, five-star hotel accommodation, bar bills, personal laundry, office equipment for his Bryanston home and a string of more intimate items such as bouquets of flowers.

Mabona only, however, finally lost his provincial cabinet seat in 1997, when the Moldenhauer commission confirmed that he had personally helped secure fake drivers’ licences for the national Parliament’s deputy speaker, Baleka Mbete-Kgositsile.

The licence inquiry also exposed massive corruption in his safety and security department, with former Bantustan licence testing centres issuing literally hundreds of fake licences a day.

When it became obvious he would be sacked, Mabona resigned.

Two years later Mabona managed to claw his way back to public office by using his blood relationship with premier-elect Ndaweni Mahlangu to secure the public works portfolio.
— African Eye News Service

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