‘I am not JZ’s buddy...’

2017-05-28 06:00
Businessman Philani Mavundla at the acid mine drainage treatment plant in Springs that was built by a joint venture involving one of his companies Picture: Tebogo Letsie

Businessman Philani Mavundla at the acid mine drainage treatment plant in Springs that was built by a joint venture involving one of his companies Picture: Tebogo Letsie

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Construction magnate Philani Mavundla insists that he is a self-made businessman and that his success has nothing to do with President Jacob Zuma or the ANC.

In the boardroom of his offices in Bedfordview, Johannesburg, Mavundla takes off his jacket, dispenses with niceties and tackles his reported friendship with Zuma.

At the top of his list are reports that he personally slaughtered 20 cows to celebrate when Zuma was elected as ANC president in 2007.

“I was the ANC’s chairperson of the Inkosi Bhambatha region and all the branches had supported [Zuma] to be the president. So we invited him to our celebrations; it was a rally and we needed to feed people.

“That is why we slaughtered the 20 cows. It was not for the president, but for the people,” he said.

Mavundla, the former mayor of Greytown’s Umvoti Local Municipality, is arguably the town’s most colourful resident, with his three wives and 20 children.

“My oldest child is 31 and my youngest is three months,” he said. “I am unashamedly polygamist. We critique polygamy, but I know many men who are married and have more than 10 girlfriends. My wives are happy. If that was not the case, they would have divorced me; they are not desperate.”

About reports that he personally offered to pay Zuma’s portion of the R246m security upgrades to his Nkandla home, Mavundla said that was not his idea alone.

“The truth is that we came [together] as a collective and said, as a country, we are spending too much time discussing this Nkandla thing when we have so much [else] to do. To cut the noise, we decided to pay the debt,” he said.

“Through our lawyer, we wrote to [former public protector] Thuli Madonsela, but, for her own reasons, she ignored us.”

When asked to elaborate on “the collective”, he declined.

When asked about being a founding member of the Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust, established to support Zuma during his legal troubles in 2005, Mavundla said this was also a “collective” decision.

“I am not a bosom friend of the president. I don’t have a special relationship with the president. I am not on a first-name basis with him and he is not like a friend that I can call any day,” he said. However, he said that Zuma was his president “just like he is the president of every other South African”.

“I must also emphasise that I am a card-carrying member of the ANC and I have a leader, and that leader happens to be Zuma,” he said.

Mavundla, who is reputed to be stupendously wealthy, was coy about his businesses.

“Let’s just say that I’m a self-made man with a few businesses. In fact, I can tell you that I am one of a few black people who have been involved in some of the country’s signature construction projects.”

Mavundla’s companies were involved in the construction of Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, King Shaka International Airport and the R20bn Ingula hydro-electricity scheme near Ladysmith.

Read more on:    zuma  |  jacob  |  philani mavundla  |  anc

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