I feel like El Presidente - Block
Anna-Maria Lombard, City Press
Johannesburg - Explosive email communication between John Block and Uruguayan-born tycoon Gaston Savoi could nail the Northern Cape ANC chairperson.
The emails, submitted by the State in Block’s bail application to the Kimberley Magistrate's Court last week, show how the politician saw himself as “El Presidente” at the centre of an empire of power and wealth, and how he actively worked to open new markets for Intaka Investment to sell water purifiers to municipalities in the province.
A 15-page statement, written by PricewaterhouseCoopers director Trevor White, forms part of the State’s key evidence against Block and his co-accused.
White tells how the correspondence between Block and Savoi from June 2005 to February 2006 proves that they worked together to sell Wataka water purifiers – with a price tag of R2.6m each – throughout the province. Savoi owns Intaka.
In an email dated February 2006, Block boasted of his influence at a local municipality: “I am still on the pulse of the Upington Municipality. I will have feedback by next week. I feel like El Presidente when he commands his people. Patria o muerte! Venceremos! (Motherland or death! We shall overcome!)”
In another email, Block offered Savoi contact details of various Northern Cape municipalities and mayors who could be approached for Wataka sales.
In another animated email of February 17 2006, Block wrote: “The blessings of my birthday are indeed paying off. The younger I get, the more Watakas we seem to be getting. I need a birthday every month.”
White said the emails implied that Wataka sales were going well. According to invoices that White examined, Block’s Chisane Investments received consulting fees and commission from Intaka for the marketing of Watakas.
Block, Savoi and Danile Madyo, the former head of the province’s health department, are among 11 people facing charges including corruption, money laundering, fraud and racketeering relating to irregularly awarded tenders estimated at R112m.
The tenders were for water-purification and oxygen-generating plants sold at inflated prices to state hospitals in the Northern Cape by Intaka Holdings, of which Block and Savoi are directors.
The State opposed bail for Block and Savoi, arguing that the Uruguayan, as a wealthy global businessman and traveller, was a flight risk and that Block’s political influence could result in witnesses being intimidated.
White also revealed that a conversation with Intaka’s financial director in May had showed that the firm had sold 71 Watakas to the Angolan government for R300m.
Block and Savoi were granted bail of R100 000 each and the case was postponed to March 18 next year.
On Friday, the Asset Forfeiture Unit attached five houses, 18 vehicles and business interests belonging to Block, Madyo, Daniel Gabarone, Hamed Shabi, Faima Shahzad and Sanjey Mitha.
Savoi and others were recently arrested in KwaZulu-Natal for a similar scam where the provincial health department bought purifiers at inflated prices.
The chief executive of KwaZulu-Natal development bank Ithala, Sipho Shabalala, was among those arrested.