‘We were hoping to meet Juju but he went to Milan’

2011-07-02 17:57

Julius Malema is big in Italy. The ANC Youth League leader returned from a week-long jaunt in the country of Julius Caesar, pasta and high fashion amid questions over his participation in government-to-government liaisons.

But Italian municipal officials who didn’t get a chance to shake Juju’s hand were disappointed.

“We were hoping to have him here but it was not possible for him to come as we were told he had other meetings in Milan,” said Serena Forrachia from the Reggio Emilia municipality.

A delegation of Limpopo officials, politicians and businesspeople, led by Premier Cassel Mathale, visited the municipality in Northern Italy for a celebration of the South African struggle for liberation.

Mathale’s spokesperson Phuti Mosomane refused to give City Press the names of people who were in the delegation.

A provisional delegation list seen by City Press is packed with Malema’s allies and at least one known business associate of Mathale’s.

It includes Frans Moswane and Jacob Lebogo, the league’s provincial chairperson and secretary respectively, the league’s former national working committee member Clifford Motsepe, Capricorn district mayor Lawrence Mapoulo and Polokwane mayor Freddy Greaver.

Businesspeople included SGL director and Malema’s former business partner, Lesiba Gwangwa; Selby Construction owner and Mathale’s business partner Selbie Manthata; Data Master director Jacques Nell; Rivoni Property Consultancy owner Thulani Rollins Nkuna and Mohammed Dada, the owner of Dada’s World of Hardware.

Gwangwa is Malema’s former business partner in SGL, the controversial engineering firm that made headlines last year ­after winning more than R140 million worth of tenders from Limpopo municipalities.

His other company, On-Point Engineers, later won a R50 million project management unit tender from the Limpopo roads and transport department.

Manthata’s company has scored multimillion-rand construction and water reticulation tenders from several Limpopo municipalities over the past few years.

Manthata is also the business partner of Mathale’s wife, Mokgadi Dolly Kgohloane, in another company called CBA Property Developers.

According to Mosomane the trip was for trade and cultural ­exchange purposes. Both Malema and the Limpopo government delegation were hosted by the SA embassy in Italy.

“As expected, the government is paying for all government leaders and officials,” said ­Mosomane.

The Mathale delegation left for Italy last Saturday. City Press understands Malema left two days before.

Malema returned on Thursday while the Limpopo government delegation is expected to return tomorrow.

Said Mosomane: “Our trip to Italy had nothing to do with Malema. Questions about his trip must be directed to the ANC Youth League.”

League spokesperson Floyd Shivambu said there was no ­connection whatsoever between the trips of Malema and the Limpopo government delegation.

“It was just a coincidence. He went there after the (league’s) congress (which re-elected Malema). He was invited by the South African ambassador (Thenjiwe Mtintso) to Italy,” he said.

The Limpopo delegation criss-crossed Italy, meeting mayors from some of the most financially influential districts.

According to a statement from the press office of the Reggio Emilia municipality, the Italians were very excited at the prospect of meeting Malema.

The statement described Malema as “one of the leading political figures in South Africa”.

Reggio Emilia has historical ties to South Africa. In 1977 then ANC leader Oliver Tambo signed a solidarity pact with the town.

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