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Mabuyakhulu: I took the R1-million, but not from Savoi

ANC KwaZulu-Natal deputy chairperson Mike Mabuyakhulu has again told the Zondo commission that he received a R1-million cash “donation” from the KwaZulu-Natal head of provincial treasury, Sipho Shabalala, to pay towards its 2008 provincial conference.

Mabuyakhulu, who was then the ANC provincial treasurer, said the money was part of a “package” of donations raised by Shabalala for the party, but denied that he knew the money came from corruption accused Uruguayan businessperson Gaston Savoi.

Mabuyakhulu returned to the commission on Monday night to respond to evidence from forensic auditor Trevor White, who was part of the team investigating the “Amigos” corruption case involving Savoi and a network of KwaZulu-Natal politicians and government officials. He was also responding to testimony from the ANC’s lawyer, Sibusisiwe Ngubane-Zulu, earlier this week.

Mabuyakhulu was charged along with Savoi and 19 others for the R144-million tender to supply KwaZulu-Natal’s health and cooperative governance departments with water purification plans and oxygen generation equipment from Intaka Holdings. Charges against him and several other accused were withdrawn in 2012 under controversial circumstances.

Mabuyakhulu is out on bail for another corruption case, in which he allegedly received a R300 000 kickback from payments for the R28-million North Sea Jazz Festival that never happened. He was the economic development MEC at the time. The case will go to trial in September.

Mabuyakhulu said he had no dealings with Ngubane-Zulu during the police investigation into the alleged bribes and that he had instructed John Wills, her partner in the firm, who had drafted answers to their questions in an affidavit.

Mabuyakhulu again confirmed that “I was the one who received the donations in cash … that authorised the use of money to be dispersed for costs of the upcoming conference in June 2008. I received that money in a donation from Mr Shabalala.”

Mabuyakhulu reiterated that he did not know at the time that the R1-million had come from Savoi.

Mabuyakhulu said the ANC’s financial manager, Delani Mzila, would not have known who the money came from or how much was donated because such matters were not discussed with staff members.

Mabuykhulu’s testimony provided some clarity on the ANC’s inner financial workings. He said it would “respect” the fact that some donors were “not willing to be acknowledged” and would make cash payments rather than transfers or depositions into the ANC’s bank accounts.

“You would have to respect that,” he said.

Only the ANC’s top officials were briefed about such donations, which would not be discussed in open meetings.

“We handled the issue of donations in a particular manner. We were sensitive that information needed to be treated in a manner that would not … present it to anyone,” he said.

He said this level of secrecy was necessary to protect donors. Only verbal reports were delivered because written ones would be “leaked immediately”, which would “cause difficulties for the movement”.

Mabuyakhulu said he had reported the donation to Zweli Mkhize, then the ANC KwaZulu-Natal chairperson.

White said there was no proof that the R1-million was given to Mabuyakhulu by Shabalala  and then used to pay for service providers for the 2008 ANC provincial conference, as claimed by Mabuyakhulu.

“No receipt was issued … nothing has been put up to show that this was what it was used for,” White said.

He said the commission only had Mabuyakhulu’s version of events, with no documentary proof to back up his statements. “Not a single person” had corroborated Mabuyakhulu’s version of events and that “another version” existed.

“No one else ever saw this R1m. Would the provincial treasurer count it himself when it was brought to the office? Nobody has ever seen this money,” White said.

If the money was used in this way, outside of the ANC’s official accounting system, it meant the party’s financial statements were a “farce”, he said.

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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