Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Spy boss haunted by tender probe

The new head of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) is a director of a company embroiled in a massive tender-fraud probe involving millions of rands.
Lizo Gibson Njenje, appointed head of the NIA last Friday by State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, is a director of Bosasa Operations, a Krugersdorp-based facilities management company with various lucrative government contracts.

Njenje is a former head of operations at the NIA who was suspended with former spy boss Billy Masetlha in 2005. Njenje was prepared to challenge his suspension legally, but it was revoked by former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils after an out-of-court settlement was reached.

Njenje was the non-executive chairperson of Bosasa before joining the NIA for the first time. He resigned his directorships when he started working for government, but rejoined the Bosasa board in May this year.

Bosasa has been under investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) since 2007 for allegations of tender-rigging in the department of correctional services.

The SIU finalised its report into these and other allegations last month and handed it to Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and acting prisons boss Jenny Schreiner. Neither Mapisa-Nqakula nor Schreiner have commented on the outcome of the investigation.

Mapisa-Nqakula’s spokesperson told the Mail & Guardian in mid-September that the minister would respond to the report ”in due course”. Mapisa-Nqakula has since told The Star she would submit the report to the Cabinet before deciding on further action.

The M&G revealed earlier this year that Bosasa had tender documentation in its possession before it was advertised publicly. The Bosasa contracts, worth more than R1-billion, were investigated by the SIU with the 200 most lucrative tenders awarded by the prisons department. These included contracts for access control systems at prisons countrywide (Sondolo IT), high-tech security fencing (Phezulu Fencing) and catering at major prisons (Bosasa Operations).

The M&G is in possession of a presentation by the SIU that was supposed to have been submitted to Parliament’s portfolio committee on correctional services two weeks ago. The meeting was cancelled a day before.

In it, without naming companies, the SIU strongly suggests that it had found proof of irregularities with the awarding of high-value contracts in nutrition, clothing, building and security.

The SIU found evidence of tender-rigging and has referred it to the National Prosecuting Authority to decide if criminal prosecution should be instituted.

This week Cwele’s spokesperson, Lorna Daniels, defended Njenje’s appointment, saying: ”We do not wish to discuss or pre-empt the outcome of any investigation still under consideration — Lizo Njenje brings to our community not only his intelligence skills and experience but also strong business skills that are needed during this period of restructuring.”

The M&G reported earlier this year that Bosasa had sponsored the airfare of Njenje and former prisons boss Linda Mti from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth while Njenje was employed by the NIA and Mti by correctional services.

Njenje said at the time: ”I was headhunted into a government position while active as a businessman with various interests. All I needed to do to comply with the employment conditions was to resign as an executive director from the companies.

”My shareholding and all benefits accruing were a matter of declaring and that I did as required. Some of the companies I was a shareholder in had or have relations with Bosasa.”

Besides his interest in Bosasa, Njenje is also a shareholder of mining company Simmer & Jack through its empowerment partner Vulisango, of which Njenje owns 22%. Vulisango is embroiled in a boardroom battle with Simmer & Jack over its equity. As a result four directors, including Njenje’s wife, Bulelwa, resigned from the mining firm’s board.

Gibson Njenje is also a director of 25 other private companies, including Delta Mining Consolidated, Thatha Security and Iziko Mining. Daniels said he would resign from these directorships ”as is required by the public service legislation”.

He will also be required to disclose his financial interests.

Cwele did not respond to the M&G‘s questions about whether he had taken into account a report by the inspector general of intelligence, Zolile Ngcakani, in 2005 that led to the suspension of Njenje and Masetlha.

Ngcakani investigated the botched surveillance of businessman Saki Macozoma and found the reasons given by Masetlha and ”the senior management of the NIA” for spying on Macozoma were ”without substance and merit”.

Last year in the so-called hoax email trial against Masetlha and others, Kasrils testified that the botched Macozoma surveillance illustrated the lack of leadership at the NIA. He criticised Masetlha and ”two other senior people in NIA” — Njenje and colleague Bob Mahlangu were suspended with Masetlha — for their role in the operation, saying the episode showed ”people at [the] top” were not ”fit for their jobs”.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC members take legal action over council selection disputes

Nine ANC members in the North West’s Greater Taung Municipality have sent a letter to the national list committee threatening to go to court should the ANC not respond to their demands.

Court judgment about alien fish is about more than trout...

Judge finds that public participation in democratic processes is not the exclusive preserve of the privileged few who have access to the internet and can read English

More top stories

Municipal employees to get a 3.5% increase after wage deal

The South African Local Government Association said a three-year wage deal had been agreed on the remuneration of municipal employees

South Africans in Afrobrometer survey think corruption is ‘worsening’

Most of the 1 600 participants in the study believe the government is doing an inefficient job in combating corruption, according to Afrobarometer

Court judgment about alien fish is about more than trout...

Judge finds that public participation in democratic processes is not the exclusive preserve of the privileged few who have access to the internet and can read English

Matric exam timetable changes to accommodate elections

Moving the national senior certificate exams forward also allows matrics who are old enough to cast their ballots on 1 November
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×