/ 3 November 2020

Zano Spark’s R4.3-million ‘kickback’ used to buy property

Yakhe Kwinana Testifies Before The Zondo Commission In South Africa
Former SAA Technical board chair and SAA board member Yakhe Kwinana testifies before the Zondo Commission on November 02, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Papi Morake/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Former SAA Technical (SAAT) board chair Yakhe Kwinana used some of the R4.3-million her company received from a supplier to invest in property. This despite previous evidence that the alleged kickback was to be invested in foreign-exchange trading.

Kwinana’s company, Zano Spark, came under scrutiny at the state capture commission — chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo — on Tuesday. She initially ran the foreign-exchange trading company with the help of her daughter, Lumka Goniwe.

Evidence leader advocate Kate Hofmeyr questioned Kwinana on, among other issues, whether Zano Spark was licenced to trade on behalf of clients and if the platforms Kwinana uses to do so allow this. 

According to Kwinana, she has eight clients on whose behalf she trades on the foreign-exchange market.

Among these clients is Vuyisile Ndzeku, the director of aviation company JM Aviation. JM Aviation worked with Swissport SA to provide ground and aviation services to SAAT for R1-billion. Ndzeku’s client received R28.5-million from Swissport.

In August, Ndzeku told the commission that in 2016 he decided to invest some of the money he made at JM Aviation in foreign-exchange trading. This was after a discussion with Goniwe, who he said approached him with the opportunity to hedge against the falling rand.

Ndzeku claimed he did not know the money was going to Kwinana.

Records obtained by the commission show that between July and September 2016, Zano Spark received repeated payments from JM Aviation directly or from Ndzeku’s wife. During that period nothing else of any note was happening in the Zano Spark bank account, Hofmeyr told the commission.

By September 2016, these payments totalled R4.3-million, the commission heard in August.

But on Tuesday, Kwinana revealed that the money received from Zano Spark was not invested only in the foreign-exchange trading. Some of this money was also invested in property, she said.

“The problem with that is, Mr Ndzeku’s evidence, under oath before this commission, is that he wanted to hedge against the falling rand. And that is why he wanted investment in forex,” Hofmeyr intervened.

“You don’t hedge against the falling rand by buying properties.”

Hofmeyr continued: “Miss Kwinana, the only basis for which Mr Ndzeku — a supplier to SAA Technical at the time that he starts paying money into your account — his reason for doing so is that he wanted to trade in forex so that he could hedge against the falling rand. You are now telling me that he entered into a contract with you that said you could invest in whatever you wanted to, including property that would stay in rands.”

When it was put to Kwinana that this is inconsistent with Ndzeku’s evidence, Kwinana said she would stick to her evidence.

Earlier Kwinana told the commission that she is unable to hand over records of the investments with Zano Spark because the server on which they were kept was confiscated by the company that owned it in February. This was because the account had not been paid.

In August, Hofmeyr questioned Ndzeku about whether he received any updates on his investments from Zano Spark. After a protracted exchange, Ndzeku said he received reports annually from Kwinana’s company through email.

But on Tuesday, Kwinana claimed she did not send these annual reports using email and instead, in the interest of confidentiality, hand-delivered hard copies to each of her clients.

Hofmeyr asked, if this were the case, why Kwinana was comfortable sending confidential SAA documents using email. Kwinana said SAA had no policy requiring her not to do so, but Zano Spark did.

When asked for a copy of Zano Spark’s policy, Kwinana said she would have to hand deliver a hardcopy of it to the commission. 

Hofmeyr called Kwinana’s claims about Zano Spark’s records “nothing short of preposterous”. 

“I need to put to you that your evidence thus far, I will likely argue in due course, is dishonest,” she said. 

Kwinana responded simply by saying she would not be able to email the records to the commission because that would be in breach of Zano Spark’s policy.