A Bentley Bentayga retailing for about R4‑million and the renovation of a private home are at the centre of a battle over who gets to run the Eastern Cape.
WhatsApp messages, seen by the Mail & Guardian, seem to indicate that the province’s ANC chair and premier candidate, Oscar Mabuyane, is implicated in receiving undue benefits, an allegation he denies.
The claims provide insight into the political machinations of a province where Cyril Ramaphosa drew crucial support ahead of the 2017 national elective conference at Nasrec.
Mabuyane and party treasurer Babalo Madikizela, seen as allies of Ramaphosa, have been accused of benefiting from payments made to businessman Lonwabo Bam by the Mbizana local municipality, but Bam’s plant hire company, Mthombeni Projects, had not done the work for which he was paid.
In the WhatsApp messages between Bam and Madikizela, who has been the human settlements MEC since November, Madikizela provides the banking details of LSM Distributors Randburg for the purchase of a Bentley Bentayga. The banking details of an East London draftsman, Allan Morran, who revamped Mabuyane’s house, are also provided.
Mabuyane and Madikizela came to power in a fiercely contested provincial conference in 2017, where ANC members beat each other up and threw chairs at each other. The conference, dubbed the “festival of chairs”, was challenged in court. But the high court in Johannesburg dismissed the motion to try to force the party’s national executive committee (NEC) to disband Mabuyane’s provincial executive committee (PEC).
Bam, once a close friend and business associate of Madikizela until late last year, has had many government contracts from Eastern Cape municipalities and departments. The two would not say why they had fallen out.
In the WhatsApp messages, the proofs of payment provided by Bam and dated July and August last year suggest that Madikizela, who is from Mbizana, had requested payments from the businessman for his own and Mabuyane’s benefit.
Bam told the M&G he had made the payments at Madikizela’s request. “I don’t have much to say but you can ask the municipal manager [about] the R1.1‑million that Mthombeni Projects was paid for, under what tender number and for what work? I want to leave this to the law enforcement to investigate.”
Mbizana’s municipal manager, Luvuyo Mahlaka, claims Bam was paid for providing transport for Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s memorial service held in Mbizana on April 10 last year. He said no tender was issued and the payment was made to Mthombeni Projects based on a memorandum of understanding between the municipality and the provincial department of sports, recreation, arts and culture.
Mahlaka’s response is a contradiction of the invoice Bam submitted on July 24 2018 to the municipality. That invoice claims he supplied “four TLBs [tractor loader backhoes], one water cart, two vibrator rollers and two excavators”.
The M&G understands that some people in a faction opposed to Mabuyane are pushing for Bam to depose an affidavit in an attempt to prevent Mabuyane from becoming premier, and to force the ANC to refer the matter to its integrity commission.
Mabuyane and Madikizela have dismissed the claims as malicious, saying that there was no impropriety in the payments received.
Madikizela said: “As in any friendship a number of favours exchanged hands between myself and Mr Bam, some personal and some financial. I am aware that Mr Bam is going through a serious financial challenge …”
He said this might be why allegations about them had surfaced. “Mr Bam used a genuine exchange of communication and favours that I did for him to create a narrative that there was a corrupt relationship between us.”
Madikizela continued: “I have never instructed Mthombeni Projects to invoice any municipality for work done or for any other reason.
“I owned a plant hiring company that Mr Bam used. Mr Bam would pay as and when he was paid by his clients. At the time of me buying my car I was expecting some payments from Mr Bam for my plant that he has used and other monies he had borrowed from me. I instructed him to pay that amount to LSM Distributors as it was at the time convenient to do so.
“However, I see that there is a deliberate link to connect the R500 000 to the R1.1‑million he claims to have defrauded the municipality of. He knows quite well that the invoice in question was for a job he did for the municipality after it was surrendered to him by another service provider. For that matter, he did not even have the monies to initiate the work and again I came to his rescue.”
Madikizela said he had provided Bam with Allan Morran Designs’s banking details because Mabuyane, as his friend, had asked him for a loan to pay for alterations to his home.
A WhatsApp message shows that on July 23, Mabuyane forwarded the banking details of Allan Morran to Madikizela with a message that said: “Transfer kula account Ngutyana lamcimbi wendlu, enkosi kakhulu (Please transfer that house matter to that account. Thanks a lot).”
A payment of R450 000 was processed on August 1 from Bam’s account to Allan Morran’s Nedbank account with the reference “Mabuyane”. Morran confirmed that he was the draftsman who worked on Mabuyane’s R4.3-million Bunkers Hill house. He said he didn’t know who had made the payment.
Mabuyane’s spokesperson, Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha, told the M&G: “The communication from Comrade Mabuyane to Comrade (Cde) Madikizela on the matter at issue was about a private loan they had discussed earlier. Cde Mabuyane and Cde Madikizela agreed on a loan from Cde Madikizela to Cde Mabuyane for the renovation of his private family home, which they had to urgently move into due to pressing security matters. The condition of the property [that] they bought through a bond from the bank, which they are repaying through instalments, required renovations before they could move into the property. The loan between Cdes Mabuyane and Madikizela is a private matter, and they have agreed on repayment terms.”
He further said Mabuyane was of the view that the payment was from Madikizela: “Anything that attempts to distort this fact is rejected as malicious and baseless. This is an attempt at defamation of the character of Mr Mabuyane and falsehoods.”
The payments were allegedly set in motion when, on July 24, Madikizela called Bam and instructed him to submit a R1.1-million invoice to Mbizana local municipality. This came the day after Mabuyane forwarded the banking details of Allan Morran to Madikizela.
Madikizela is alleged to have further told Bam to get in touch with an office manager at the ANC’s Eastern Cape headquarters, Calata House, who would give more information regarding the invoice to the municipality. But Madikizela dismissed the claim, saying that Bam had sent the invoice as proof that he was awaiting payment from Mbizana municipality to settle his debt.
Once the invoice was submitted and paid, a series of payments in August followed, including the R450 000 and the R500 000 deposit for the Bentley. The vehicle is priced from R4‑million in South Africa.