Durban advocate Muzi Mkhize, tipped to take over as national prosecutions boss, is up to his neck in the Land Bank scandal. Mkhize admitted under oath to complicity in what amounts to corrupt attempts to secure multimillion-rand loans from the bank.
He partnered Kobus Boshoff, now on trial for fraud, and top Land Bank officials in companies that submitted the loan applications and allegedly channelled kickbacks to the officials.
The officials, Mkhize stated in an affidavit, had to ”co-ordinate the loan applications” in return for ”benefits in the transaction or companies”.
The affidavit was made during official investigations into hundreds of millions of rands irregularly lent by the bank. The scandal culminated in Cabinet removing the bank from Agriculture Minister Lulu Xingwana’s portfolio last July and handing it to Finance Minister Trevor Manuel to clean up the mess.
Mkhize was not available for comment on Thursday. Speculation has been rife this week that Mkhize will replace Vusi Pikoli as national director of public prosecutions.
A senior National Prosecuting Authority official said this week he had heard some weeks ago that Mkhize was likely to be his new boss. A top Justice Department official confirmed: ”He does appear to be one of the front-runners.”
Reaction to the disclosure of Mkhize’s candidacy has included questions about his proximity to ANC president Jacob Zuma — whose fate as a corruption accused he might have to decide — and a conviction for misconduct by the KwaZulu-Natal Society of Advocates.
The conviction stemmed from his presiding over a disciplinary hearing after he had drafted an opinion for the employer opining that the employee was guilty.
This week Mkhize told The Mercury that he would be fit and proper for the job if appointed. ”I have acted as a judge. If I was fit to act as a judge, I am fit to hold the post [of national director].” But his role in the Land Bank scandal might pose a more serious challenge to his claim.
Company registration records show that Mkhize’s business relationship with alleged conman Boshoff appears to have taken off in mid-2004, when SR Tswelopele Holdings and SR Tswelopele Agri-Industries, the first of a string of companies involving both men or people close to them, were founded.
Manapo Real Estate, Manapo Abatoir and the Ubuso be Africa group, which included companies set up to trade in real estate, agriculture and minerals and energy, among other sectors, followed in 2005 and 2006.
Boshoff, the target of complaints as early as 1992 that he had conned unsuspecting investors, was finally arrested last July. He is on bail pending trial in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on 10 fraud charges. A source close to the investigation confirmed that Mkhize’s role was also under scrutiny.
Mkhize appears to have maintained links with Boshoff. One of Boshoff’s alleged victims, a man who says he has lost nearly everything, but asked not to be identified, has attended Boshoff’s court appearances. He claimed on Thursday that Mkhize still supported Boshoff.
”Mkhize is that man’s [Boshoff] friend. He flies down from KwaZulu-Natal to attend all his court hearings.”
In his affidavit, made to a Land Bank investigator in November 2007 and obtained by the Mail & Guardian this week, Mkhize blithely describes his and Boshoff’s involvement in Land Bank loan applications where bank officials were cut in.
He admits: ”I was involved with certain companies where employees of the Land Bank were involved either as directors, shareholder or advisers. The main reason for their involvement with the companies was to coordinate the loan applications that were submitted to the Land Bank and, in return, therefore they would receive benefits in the transactions or companies.
”Some of the companies involved in these transactions were Tswelopele, Turquoise Moon, Manapo and Ubuso be Africa.”
Mkhize also describes negotiations between Tswelopele and Illovo to buy a sugar mill in KwaZulu-Natal. ”Each time we had meetings regarding this transaction Kobus Boshoff and [a senior Land Bank official, name withheld] attended the meetings.
”During these meetings [the official] never partakes in the discussions. Kobus Boshoff referred to [the official] as the senior person who would arrange the loans at the Land Bank. [The official] was fully aware of what was going on.”
The M&G has confirmed the official’s participation in Mkhize and Boshoff’s companies through company registration and other records.
Mkhize says he personally collected a letter on a Land Bank letterhead confirming a R285-million loan for the transaction, which later fell through.
He implicates at least four other senior Land Bank officials in further loan applications, including one to buy the Pyramid abattoir in Gauteng, a transaction known to have attracted considerable attention during the investigations into the Land Bank.
Additional reporting by Nic Dawes