On Thursday, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), accompanied by Hawks investigators and a team of curators, seized assets belonging to ANC KwaZulu-Natal deputy chairperson Mike Mabuyakhulu and 15 other individuals and companies charged for corruption over a R26-million jazz festival that never happened.
The move by the AFU comes ahead of the appearance of Mabuyakhulu — who was KwaZulu-Natal Economic Development MEC in 2012 when the department was allegedly defrauded — and his six co-accused in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court next month.
A number of teams swooped simultaneously on homes and offices owned by the accused, who allegedly laundered the R26-million through companies they owned, in Durban, Empangeni and Westbrook Beach on the lower KwaZulu-Natal north coast.
Cars, several luxury vehicles and at least two houses are understood to have been seized in the raids, authorised by the high court earlier in the week. Homes in several upmarket Durban suburbs, including Glen Ashley and Umhlanga, were hit in the operation.
Maybuyakhulu’s Empangeni home is understood to have been raided. It is not known at this stage what assets belonging to him were preserved.
“Our members along with a number of curators and the AFU are on site as we speak doing inventory on a number of sites connected to the 16 respondents in the court order,” Hawks spokesperson Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo said. “They are currently taking inventory in compliance with the order.”
The accused in the case are Mabuyakhulu and former Economic Development department head Desmond Golding and event organisers Ceaser Mkhize, Mabheleni Ntuli, Basil Ninela and his wife Brenda, Nothando Zungu, Ntokozo Ndlovu and Njabulo Mkhize.
They allegedly received payment for the festival, which the department was a sponsor of, despite it being cancelled because of contractual disputes with a European partner in the venture.
They were arrested in February 2018 and face 77 counts of money laundering, corruption and fraud over the payments, from which Mabuyakhulu allegedly benefited to tune of R330 000. The balance allegedly went to his co-accused.
Jimmy Howse, Mabuyakhulu’s advocate, has previously indicated that when the case resumes he intends to request a separation of trial between his client and the other accused.
Mabuyakhulu, the KwaZulu-Natal coordinator of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign for the ANC presidency in 2017, was elected as ANC deputy provincial chairperson on a “unity” slate in July 2018.
He was axed as MEC in the cabinet reshuffle that took place after the disputed November 2015 provincial conference.
He did not answer calls on his cellphone at the time of writing.
ANC KwaZulu-Natal spokesperson Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the party did not have all the facts about the raid but would issue a statement in due course.