Zuma fires fong con

2011-02-05 18:22

A serial fraudster, who spent 18 months in jail for conning his way into top government and private sector jobs, has emerged as a key figure in an R800 million Chinese development project in President Jacob Zuma’s hometown of Nkandla.

But Jabu Ivan Maswanganye and his consulting firm were fired from the project on Friday night after City Press alerted Zuma’s ­office to the conman’s tactics.

The ambitious project, which forms part of a larger R6 billion investment plan by Chinese investors, will see the construction of a shopping mall, and residential and business facilities, in the rural village with a population of 130 000 and 25 000 households.

It is the latest in a range of projects coming to Nkandla after Zuma was elected ANC president in December 2007.

A City Press investigation has uncovered:
» Maswanganye, one of the Nkandla project’s local partners, was fired by the Mpumalanga ­provincial government in 2000 for falsifying his university ­degrees and matric certificate;

» He was jailed for fraud; and

» Maswanganye was present in Nkandla over Christmas when ­Zuma announced the project.

Maswanganye, whose consulting firm Linkfinn was a local partner of the Chinese investors, attempted to convince City Press this week he was the “identical twin brother” of Ivan Maswanganye, the fraudster.

According to him, “Ivan” was now living in Ireland. “My brother and I parted ways after a long and very dirty battle that ended up in court. I am now used to this. I will always carry my brother’s shadow,” said Maswanganye, who goes by the name “Jabu”.

But his version was disputed by three ­independent sources and documentary ­evidence.

» Jabu Ivan Maswanganye, born in 1968, is registered as a director of Linkfinn with the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro). According to “Jabu”, this is his brother and they share the name “Jabu”.

» When asked for his identity number, “Jabu” gave one that indicates he was born in 1971. Asked how they could be identical twins if they were born three years apart, Maswanganye changed his story and said: “We look very alike, but we are not twins. I didn’t mean twins in that way.”

» Maswanganye claimed his full names were Jabu Theo Bongi Maswanganye, but the 1971 ID number is registered as that of Theopilis Sibosiso Maswanganye.

» The cellphone number Maswanganye used to communicate with City Press is registered in the name of Jabu Ivan Maswanganye, using the same 1968 ID number of Jabu Ivan Maswanganye, the Linkfinn director.

Three independent sources told City Press they had heard the story about Maswanganye’s alleged “twin”, but had never met the man. One flatly denied Maswanganye had a brother, and a former business partner of Maswanganye laughed aloud when City Press asked him about a “twin”.

The project that was announced by Zuma in Nkandla over Christmas is bankrolled by the Shanghai Property Fund, which secures land in South Africa on behalf of major Chinese investors. According to Maswanganye, the fund is acting on behalf of the Calibra Motor Corporation, which was in the process of building a major motor manufacturing plant at Richards Bay and expects the Nkandla project – about 120km away – to provide accommodation for staff at the plant.

The project’s local partners are the Masibambisane Rural Development Project, chaired by Zuma and, until Friday night, Linkfinn. Construction will be carried out by the Siyakhula consortium, which is sourcing land and doing ­construction work on behalf of the Chinese.

The project is one of several planned by Siyakhula, whose chief financial officer, Zain Ballee, said on Friday other developments were planned for George, Harrismith and Mpumalanga. Ballee said Linkfinn had been retained to do feasibility studies. He said he had never met Maswanganye, but had spoken to him on the phone.

Mereki Elias Mosia, Maswanganye’s co-director in Linkfinn, said he was told his partner had a twin brother, but he had never seen them together.

Asked how his “brother” could be a director after being convicted of fraud, Maswanganye said: “He has gone to jail for one year and six months, and should not be sentenced again 11 years later.”

Yesterday, after City Press told Zuma’s ­office all evidence points to Maswanganye ­being the same man that was fired by Mpumalanga and jailed for fraud, Mzobe said on behalf of the Masibambisane project that they had met with Siyakhula and decided to dismiss Linkfinn from the project.

Mzobe said: “After we received the information from you, we .?.?. decided to remove Linkfinn .?.?. and replace them. We want to say their only role was as a link between our organisation and the investors. We appreciate the way in which you have helped us. Thank you.”

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