/ 13 July 2018

SIU probes Pule Mabe’s associates

Pule Mabe says his involvement in the trust was marginal.
Pule Mabe says his involvement in the trust was marginal.

Law enforcement agencies are looking into how a company and a trust run by family members and close business associates of ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe scored more than R149-million in suspicious contracts across three provinces.

The contracts involve the Mvest Trust and company Enviro Mobi — both run by Mabe’s cousin and his former business associate. Contracts were signed in North West, Gauteng and the Free State over a three-year period.

Mabe has said that his only involvement in the deals is as the holder of a patent for an app that he had licensed to the trust and an associated company, Enviro Mobi. But the Mail & Guardian has previously reported how Mabe was himself a former director of Enviro Mobi and that the company was still being run by his close associates.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has already met with a North West government subsidiary, the North West Development Corporation (NWDC), to investigate financial irregularities in the awarding of a R49-million laundromat tender to Mvest Trust, run by Mabe’s cousin Eulender Rakoma and his former employee and business associate, Tinyiko Mahuntsi.

The SIU investigation follows an internal probe at the NWDC that found that there was possible fraud in the payment of the R49-million to Mvest Trust, as the individuals who signed for the payment did not have the authority to make the payment.

READ MORE: Mabe-linked firms cited for fraud

Of the two people who made the payment, former acting chief executive Mike Mthimunye has been suspended. The internal investigations also found no evidence of any “substantial work performed” by Mvest Trust and that irregular expenditure was incurred by the NWDC as a result of this contract.

“We have met with the authorities [law enforcement] already and they are investigating,” said NWDC chief executive Tshepo Phetla. “The SIU wrote a formal request for all the information they required. We gave them everything they required.”

An insider at the NWDC said the aim was to recover the monies paid to the trust and to ensure that those implicated in the transaction face criminal charges.

SIU spokesperson Nazreen Pandor was unable to comment on the matter at the time of going to print.

Enviro Mobi is also being investigated by the SIU for a R26-million contract it had scored from the Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development last year.

The M&G revealed last month how Enviro Mobi was hastily paid R16-million within just 10 days of signing the contract, despite a clear directive in the contract that payment only be made on delivery.

Further payments of R9.4-million and R1.6-million were made in October last year and March this year, respectively, for the acquisition of 200 “kariki” motorbikes and fleet management.

READ MORE: Waste pickers lament nondelivery of karikis by Enviro Mobi

Gauteng Premier David Makhura referred a contract from the company, which was meant to deliver three-wheeler karikis, to the SIU after allegations of financial irregularities. Enviro Mobi was meant to deliver 50 karikis to 15 co-operatives, representing 58 waste pickers, in the Ekurhuleni municipality.

After much fanfare and a media charm offensive by Gauteng agriculture MEC Lebogang Maile last month, when he claimed he was handing over the karikis, the waste pickers have not seen a single one at their co-operatives, despite the millions paid to Enviro Mobi.

Instead, Enviro Mobi has slapped the Gauteng agriculture department with a letter of demand for R9-million for storing the motorbikes.

The M&G has also established that Enviro Mobi scored more than R74-million in a similar contract for karikis in the Free State from 2015 until early this year.

According to Ntai Mokhitli, communications head at the Free State department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, the payments were made to Enviro Mobi to roll out a rapid-response service-delivery call centre for waste pickers as well as a rapid-response capacity for refuse collection, and to provide three-wheeler motorbikes for waste recyclers.

But Mokhitli did not respond to further questions — over a period of three weeks — about whether Enviro Mobi had provided the services.

Setsoto municipality in the Free State, which was one of the supposed beneficiaries of this project, confirmed that Enviro Mobi took back the karikis in June last year and that a call centre had not been established.

Seven karikis, provided by Enviro Mobi, had been in use in Ficksburg and one in Marquard.

READ MORE: Officials want ‘secure storage’ for scooters 

Ombud reprimands M&G

In the 13-19 July 2018 edition of the Mail & Guardian, ‘SIU probes Pule Mabe’s associates: Net widens as investigators find evidence of fraudulent activity conducted in three provinces’, ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe lodged a complaint with the office of the press ombudsman.

In his finding, Johan Retief, the ombudsman, reprimanded the M&G for incorrectly stating in its sub-headline that “investigators had found evidence of fraudulent activity involving contracts in three provinces — while the only finding in this regard pointed to “possible” fraudulent activities; and that the SIU and law enforcement agencies were investigating some contracts (with which he was associated), while the SIU was still considering whether to do so or not.”

The ombudsman said: “I am not ordering an apology to Mabe, as he was not the subject of an investigation, and was merely mentioned as being associated with some companies.”

Retief dismissed most of the complaint.

Visit www.presscouncil.org.za for the full finding.