Myeni's cash binge

Dudu Myeni took her board to five-star hotels and irregularly donated millions of rands in cash meant for charity to other causes, including Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini’s wedding.

In her capacity as chairperson of the Mhlathuze Water Board based in Richards Bay, Myeni also allegedly wasted hundreds of thousands of the authority’s money on luxurious foreign trips to international water conferences she then never attended.

Documents that City Press has obtained further reveal that Myeni, who also runs the Jacob Zuma Foundation:

. Used millions of rands of the company’s corporate social investment (CSI) funds to bankroll, among other things, the funeral of a local ANC leader and to sponsor a provincial women’s leadership conference.

. Instructed now-suspended CEO Sibusiso Makhanya to invoice the KwaZulu-Natal cooperative governance department for R1.4 million for building trading stalls in Nkandla – work the water authority had not done. Makhanya refused.

. Demanded a list of the water authority’s tender plans and upcoming contracts from Makhanya – information she is not entitled to according to corporate governance principles.

Documents signed by Myeni, as well as emails between her and Makhanya, show how, in 2015, she demanded the company’s procurement plan.

The plan included all tenders, their cost estimates and dates on which they would be advertised.

An insider at Mhlathuze Water said:

“[Myeni] or any other board member should not get involved in administration. Procurement plans [contain] sensitive [information] and cost estimates, which is what suppliers compete on. What does she do with the information?”

A detailed list of questions was sent to Myeni on Thursday afternoon. She did not respond.

The documents further reveal that Myeni routinely violated Mhlathuze Water’s social responsibility strategy and submitted applications for financial assistance from organisations and individuals, and then approved them herself.

Myeni signed a memorandum dated June 24 2015 approving a combined R740 000 donation to both Zwelithini, as well as for the SA Association of Water Utilities for 40 000 T-shirts for its Youth Month celebrations.

At the time, the authority had a social responsibility committee that received applications, processed them and made recommendations to Makhanya.

A separate trail of emails, all written on July 24 2014, contains messages between what appears to be the king, his fifth wife, Queen Nompumelelo, and Myeni.

One email with the subject line “King Wedding” reads: “Dear Dudu, This is to endorse what Queen Mpume forwarded to you. Thanks. His Majesty.”

The queen writes under the subject line Reed Dance 2014:

“Dear Dudu. Hope you are very well. Please receive the request from the Royal in support of 30 years of celebration of the Reed Dance. Kind Regards. Queen Nompumelelo Enyokeni Palace (sic).”

Myeni then writes to Makhanya: “... kindly assist me. We need to contribute to the King’s Wedding ... I recommend that we send to Ulundi Palace Water and Cool Drinks. I hope there is CSI budget that can be utilised. We can spend an amount of about R30 000 or any that you recommend (sic).”

Prince Thulani Zulu, the king’s brother, declined to comment on the allegations.

In December, the Pietermaritzburg High Court ruled that Myeni would have to step down from the water authority’s board.

Myeni, who was appointed in 2002, should have stepped down when her third and final term expired in February 2015, the court found.

The court ruled that the board should be dissolved within six months of the ruling.

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane extended Myeni’s tenure to coincide with the board’s term and thereafter announced the merger of the Mhlathuze and Umgeni water authorities to create a new entity.

It is not clear if Myeni will stay on.

Myeni also used the CSI funds for other projects.

In September and December 2014, Myeni sent Makhanya two invoices for more than R480 000 for the delivery of Jojo tanks at the Umkhanyakude district municipality.

Another insider at the water authority said: “Myeni rocked up with an account number of a company ... and asked the CEO to sign and pay. There is no proof that the tanks were actually bought and delivered.

“Makhanya refused and wouldn’t pay until Myeni signed herself, stating that she approved of the transactions. In the normal course of business, Dudu would not have been required to sign. But as you can see, all these have her signature.”

In December 2014 and August 2015, Myeni asked Makhanya to pay two invoices totalling R428 000 to another company. One of the invoices, for R200 000, was for “full uniforms”.

The insider said: “We don’t know what uniforms they were, and what for. We don’t even know if they were ever delivered. We don’t know who [the company] is and if the account is actually theirs.”

Myeni further approved an amount of R137 000 for a “women in leadership dialogue” and another amount of R300 000 for the “Uthungulu district municipality mayoral activities” that had board approval, but not for its eventual allocation.

The R300 000, the insider said, “was [instead] meant for paying service providers who worked at the funeral of the late Thulani Mashaba, who was the deputy mayor of Uthungulu”. Mashaba died in July 2015.

The documents also show that in March 2015, Myeni instructed Makhanya to invoice the KwaZulu-Natal cooperative governance department for R1.4 million for the construction of trading stalls in Nkandla, which the water authority had not done.

Myeni allegedly told Makhanya she would tell him where to deposit the money; however, he refused to issue the invoice.

A whistle-blower from the water authority – who sent a dossier of allegations to Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu, the office of the premier of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union – accused Myeni of hosting year-end board meetings in five-star hotels. 

Minutes of meetings show how, in 2014, Mhlathuze Water hosted its year-end board meeting at the luxurious five-star Zimbali Lodge in Ballito. In 2015, it was held at the five-star Beverly Hills Hotel in Umhlanga.

Of the 2015 board meeting, the insider said: “Mhlathuze Water also paid for the accommodation of board members and their spouses.

This was despite the circular that was issued by the finance minister discouraging such activities in the wake of cost-cutting measures.”

A board member told City Press this was normal practice, saying: “It happens every year.” 

In the dossier received by the office of the Auditor-General late last year, Myeni is further accused of not honouring two international trips to the annual World Water Week in 2013 and again last year.

“Fruitless and wasteful expenditure was incurred for bookings for Myeni for flights [business class], accommodation and conference registration fees.

"She did not pitch up or cancel an overseas business trip to Stockholm, Sweden. Mhlathuze Water incurred about R600 000 because of this.” 

The board member confirmed Myeni did not attend.

“Myeni does not travel if she doesn’t have a business class seat. And every time she travels, she stays at the Sheraton.”

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