EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu. (David Harrison/M&G)
Screenshots of text messages purporting to be a conversation between Floyd Shivambu and a businessperson with questionable links to the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) suggests a direct link between the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy president and his brother Brian’s business.
In those messages, Shivambu provides the business account details of Brian to the businessperson, who is also being investigated for a R300 000 request for payment to an alleged lover of PIC boss Dan Matjila.
The same account number provided by Floyd, registered in the name of Grand Azania, has been linked to suspicious VBS Mutual Bank payments. The FNB account into which several million rands, part of nearly R2-billion in dodgy VBS payments referred for criminal investigation, were paid, belongs to Brian’s wine distribution company, Grand Azania.
The Mail & Guardian has established that the account is one of several accounts submitted to Geoff Budlender SC as part of his investigation into impropriety at the PIC. He was asked to investigate the account for possible payments from controversial PIC beneficiary Lawrence Mulaudzi.
Screenshots of text messages, submitted by a whistle-blower to the Budlender inquiry, appear to link the EFF’s deputy president and chief whip to his brother’s bank account.
One of the text messages was sent from a number saved by Mulaudzi as “DP FS” — believed to stand for deputy president Floyd Shivambu — and gives Mulaudzi the Grand Azania bank account number. On the same day, Mulaudzi returned a message to DP FS, saying: “Evening DP, I sent instruction to process outstanding matter. You would be able to sort it out in the morning.”
On Thursday Mulaudzi, who did not deny the contents of the text messages, confirmed knowledge of the PIC investigation, saying he had made himself available for further questioning. “I think you must be patient enough and allow the investigators to reach conclusions and recommendations.”
He continued: “I have a contractual obligation with number of companies including Grand Azania, which I pay from time to time for consulting and advisory services. I know Floyd since donkey years as a one young politician who’s got brains and better vision for our country.”
Floyd said he would approach the courts to seek relief from those who defame his name without having been “given an opportunity to respond”.
Asked by the M&G to define his role in Brian’s company and the text message to Mulaudzi, Floyd said: “I don’t own Grand Azania. Please contact the owners of Grand Azania for what they do… I am not a signatory of Grand Azania account… I have not seen the report [submissions to Budlender] you say is the basis of your question about giving the account, and will patiently wait for it to be brought to my attention.”
Grand Azania’s account is among those Brian allegedly made several payments into from the R16-million he allegedly looted from VBS.
Brian’s links to the VBS payments first emerged on Wednesday when the South African Reserve Bank’s report, by Terry Motau SC, into what it called the greatest bank robbery, alleged that he had received just over R16-million in payments.
Brian, who is also a member of the EFF, was among the top 20 recipients, out of 53, of nearly R2-billion stolen from the bank, which according to Motau “were transactions that occurred without any just or legal cause”.
Brian issued a statement on Thursday in which he said that he intends to take legal action against the “owners” of the VBS report. “Even though the VBS report mentioned my name, at no stage did the VBS Mutual Bank investigators write to me, interview me or interrogate me to explain my business relationship with Vele Investments.”
He also distanced Floyd from the scandal: “My brother Floyd Shivambu is the deputy president of the EFF and not the owner of my businesses. I committed to him that I will give him support, which I have done where possible.”
A source with intimate knowledge of the investigation conducted by Motau for the Reserve Bank said millions of rands were transferred by Brian from the various accounts he held with VBS into the Grand Azania account.
“He [Brian] had a current account, contract finance and an overdraft facility. He drew a lot of money from those facilities and he never paid it back. Millions went into that Grand Azania,” said the source.
Company records show that Grand Azania was set up on October 18 2016 with the 30-year-old Brian as its sole director. Its Facebook page, which the M&G saw on Wednesday morning, disappeared soon after the report came out. The site reflected that Grand Azania operated from 6877 Vilakazi Street, Soweto. A visit to the street found no trace of Grand Azania.
The whistle-blower screenshots were sent to Budlender, who is currently investigating allegations of impropriety against the PIC boss, Daniel Matjila. The information was also submitted to the Hawks and President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Mulaudzi is implicated in the PIC investigation because he is alleged to have been asked by Matjila to lend R300 000 to a woman said to be Matjila’s lover. Matjila has consistently denied this allegation.
Bantu Holomisa’s PIC request
The whistle-blower information was contained in a submission by United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa to the commission.
Other screen grabs submitted to the Budlender inquiry appear to be exchanges between Mulaudzi and Matjila, and with Sizwe Shezi, who served as the chairperson of the Jacob Zuma RDP Education Trust. Shezi also sends his account detail.
The submission asks that all these messages should be investigated as possibly being linked to R100-million missing from a PIC investment to a company belonging to Mulaudzi.
Mulaudzi led a consortium, Kilimanjaro Capital, which received R1.7-billion from the PIC for the purchase of a 98% stake in Tosaco Energy, Total South Africa’s black economic empowerment partner.
Although the M&G’s investigation dates the relevant screenshots for March 2017, months after the deal was approved, Holomisa said in his letter: “The information provided to you thus far warrants an investigation of the PICand its investment practices. The role of Matjila in all the deals should also be teased out in a forensic investigation.
“Those submissions also reflected text messages conversations between Mulaudzi and the CEO [chief executive officer] about the R1.7-billion which in the end there was a requisition for R1.8-billion,” said Holomisa.
“However, aside from the seemingly improper transaction itself, the questions is: What happened to the R100-million? This must be investigated as it is alleged that it was paid to several individuals.
“To assist in an investigation, the bank account numbers into which the money had allegedly been paid are attached in this letter.”
In one exchange, Matjila inquires whether Mulaudzi shared Tosaco’s share certificate with a journalist investigating a discrepancy between R1.7-billion the PIC paid to Tosaco and R1.8-billion approved for the deal.
Mulaudzi replied: “Afternoon Dr, we didn’t give them shares certificates. We gave them share register only and that was last year. I think her concern is that why we only paid R1.7-billion whereas we got funding approval of R1.8b.
“What happened to a R100m. I said R50m went to transactional advisors and R50m went to recapitalise the company and we have already paid it back to the PIC through first dividends received. I also briefed Sekgoela. Regards, Lawrence [Mulaudzi].”
Matjila confirmed the conversation this week, reiterating that the R100-million was indeed for transactional advice as well as working capital.
But he said his interaction with Floyd was in terms of the latter’s role as a member of Parliament.
Yesterday, Mulaudzi said he had given his full co-operation to the Budlender inquiry. “I was summoned by the investigators for questioning, and I hope my answers were satisfactory. I committed myself do further inquiry should they need clarification on the matter.”
He also confirmed that he had been contacted by the Hawks about the allegations contained in the whistle-blowers’ submissions to Budlender. “Yes, I was contacted by one and/or two of those animal or people and of cause I can not divulge the contents of the discussion.”
On Thursday, the EFF’s chairperson, Dali Mpofu, said people who had any knowledge of their second-in-command being involved in wrongdoing should approach their offices.