Motau’s odd company

What do defence intelligence chief Lieutenant-General “Mojo” Motau, sacked civilian spy chief Billy Masetlha and controversial MP Mnyami Booi have in common, apart from embracing the Zuma cause? A group of companies they’d rather not talk about.

The Nawa group may not have made them rich yet, but it could create problems for two of the partners: Motau, whose growing corporate portfolio may be incompatible with his sensitive state duties, and Booi, who did not declare the interest to Parliament.

Company filings show that the three men and a fourth partner, Sifiso Pretorius, registered Nawa Holdings in February this year. In May they registered Nawa Oil, Nawa Mining, Nawa Energy, Nawa ICT and Telecoms, Nawa Developments and Nawa External Operations.

Booi — once chair of the Thabo Mbeki Crossroads Education Fund; now a Travelgate accused and fierce Scorpions critic — declared interests in four companies to Parliament this year, but made no mention of the Nawa group. June 20 was the cut-off date. Booi said last week: “I thought we have to declare things that are worth more than R300, these companies are dormant, they are just an empty vessel, so I ignored them. My name is on many companies.”

A parliamentary official, however, said a value threshold applied to gifts and hospitality only. Companies had to be declared regardless.

Booi would not be drawn on the purpose of the Nawa group, saying: “It is just business … There is nothing special about it, and it isn’t making any money anyway.”

Pretorius, who used to be in exile in Lesotho, runs a rail engineering company contracted by Transnet. He would not explain the Nawa group’s purpose either, except to say it did not do “much” business in South Africa. “In any case it is a new company.”

Masetlha, whom President Thabo Mbeki dismissed as director general of the National Intelligence Agency in 2006, could not be reached on Thursday. He has become a key strategist for ANC president Jacob Zuma.

Motau, who appeared on the Zuma camp’s ANC national executive committee list at Polokwane despite his position at defence intelligence, did not respond to questions last week. These included whether he had declared his interests in the Nawa group and five other companies as required by public service regulations.

Motau’s business interests reveal problems on at least two fronts:

  • Intelligence heads occupy a position of extreme trust vis-à-vis the executive. For him to have entered a formal relationship with Masetlha, whom Mbeki dismissed in 2006 over an “irretrievable breakdown of trust”, seems a slap in Mbeki’s face.
  • Motau is associated — through a friend and a common company name, although not ownership — with a UK-registered risk consultancy which specialises in selling the kind of information that Motau has access to through his intelligence job.

The consultancy, Leriba Risk, boasts on its website that it “draws on a wide network of business, political, intelligence, diplomatic and academic sources” across Africa to “offer insider knowledge essential to an understanding of what is really happening behind the closed doors of Africa’s business and political elites”.

Until the Mail & Guardian posed questions last week, the website also stated that Leriba Risk was a “division” of Leriba Resources, which South African company filings show has two principals: Motau and former Reuters correspondent Buchizya Mseteka. This appeared to suggest Motau co-owns Leriba Risk.

Mseteka, a Zambian national who left Reuters under a cloud following allegations that he had accepted payments from Zambian intelligence, is close to Motau from exile days.

Mseteka confirmed his friendship with Motau. He said that when he set up Leriba Risk he intended to include Motau, hence the reference on the website to their joint company, Leriba Resources. But he claimed that Motau had declined participation in Leriba Risk, saying “he didn’t think he should be part of it as it would be a conflict of interest”.

UK company records confirm Leriba Risk is not co-owned by Motau or Leriba Resources. The shareholders are Mseteka, London-based consultant Keith Boyfield and Jonathan Clayton, the Johannesburg-based Times of London Africa correspondent. Clayton made headlines when he was arrested and tortured after sneaking into Zimbabwe in April.

Mseteka said that he and Motau set up Leriba Resources some years ago to “go after business opportunities” but that it obtained shares only in Phutuma Nathi, the MultiChoice empowerment vehicle. South African company filings show them to be co-directors of a second company, Ngoco Trade and Investment.

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