Did murdered tender baron pay R1m for Mbalula's Las Vegas trip through Tbo Touch?

2017-04-24 09:11
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula (Picture: Lisa Hnatowicz)

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula (Picture: Lisa Hnatowicz)

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Johannesburg – A payment of R1m allegedly channelled to Police Minister Fikile Mbalula through well-known radio personality Tbo Touch has raised questions over Mbalula’s possible financial ties to a tender mogul and ANC benefactor who was killed in an apparent hit in 2015.

News24 has obtained explosive court papers in which it is alleged that Wandile Bozwana, a businessman from North West who was shot dead in Pretoria in October 2015, had earlier instructed a Bloemfontein law firm to pay Thabo "Tbo Touch" Molefe an amount of R1m. The money was earmarked for Mbalula, according to the court papers.

Esethu Hasane, Mbalula’s spokesperson, has strongly denied the claims contained in the court papers, saying they are part of Media24’s "unrelenting [and] unrepentant campaign to vilify the minister".

According to the court papers, Bozwana instructed the law firm Hannes Peyper Incorporated to pay Molefe, who allegedly acted as Mbalula's representative, R1m.

A reliable source told News24 the alleged payment was made in 2015, shortly before Mbalula and Molefe embarked on a controversial trip to Las Vegas to attend a boxing match between international superstars Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Mbalula was the minister of sport at the time of the trip.

"Mbalula was in truth and in fact the recipient and beneficiary of the payment of the amount of R1 000 000.00, the amount having being (sic) paid to the fifth defendant (Molefe) as Mbalula’s nominee," reads the court papers.

Explosive court claims

The court case in question is a legal tussle between Tsoga Developers, a company linked to Bozwana which in 2008 won a controversial tender worth R456m for the construction of a new government hospital in Brits in North West, and Hannes Peyper Incorporated, a law firm based in Bloemfontein.

Tsoga had instituted a civil claim over money that was allegedly distributed by the law firm on Bozwana’s instruction without the consent of Tsoga’s managing director, after Tsoga had secured a settlement of nearly R50m from the North West department of public works and transport. The settlement followed Tsoga's acrimonious exit from the Brits hospital project.

Hannes Peyper, from Hannes Peyper Incorporated, says the case between his law firm and Tsoga has since been settled out of court.

The revelations around the R1m allegedly paid to Mbalula are contained in a plea filed by the law firm and its two directors, Peyper and Madalane Peyper.

In their plea, the law firm and its two directors request that Mbalula be joined as a defendant in the case, seeing as the R1m the law firm had allegedly paid to Molefe was in fact intended for Mbalula.

"The plaintiff (Tsoga Developers CC) claims payment from the fifth defendant (Molefe) of an amount of R1 000 000.00 on the basis that the fifth defendant is the 'third party' to whom payment of the amount aforesaid was made 'on behalf of the Minister of Sport'," reads the plea.

Seeing as "the fifth defendant (Molefe) does not have a direct and substantial interest in the relief sought in these proceedings... Mbalula should have been cited as a defendant in these proceedings," according to the plea.

The court papers show that the alleged payment to Mbalula forms part of a series of transactions that were made from a trust account managed by Hannes Peyper Incorporated on behalf of Tsoga Developers after the latter in 2013 secured a settlement worth nearly R50m from the North West department of public works and transport.

The settlement followed the department’s cancellation of a contract with Tsoga for the construction of the hospital in Brits.

According to separate court papers relating to the tender, the department finally paid Tsoga an amount of R20m in November 2014.

In March 2015, after the department had failed to pay the outstanding balance of the settlement amount, Tsoga secured a writ for the attachment of one of the department’s bank accounts. The account contained an amount of about R30m, which was then placed in a trust managed by Hannes Peyper Incorporated, according to the court papers relating to the Brits hospital tender.

Bozwana and Tsoga also managed to attach several vehicles belonging to the North West provincial government.

In May 2015, shortly after Tsoga attached the department’s bank account, Mbalula and Molefe embarked on a controversial trip to Las Vegas to attend the boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. Mbalula at the time angrily refused to answer questions over who had paid for the trip.

What happens in Vegas...

Asked whether the R1m allegedly paid to Molefe was used to sponsor Mbalula’s trip in 2015, Hasane accused News24 of "making a lot of unfounded speculations".

According to Hasane, News24 is "try[ing] to draw a narrative that the Minister was the beneficiary of the late Mr Bozwana’s businesses and that a loan was given to them for some trip to Las Vegas..."

Such claims are "incorrect and absolute hogwash," said Hasane.

It is not clear from Hannes Peyper Incorporated’s plea what the reason was for Bozwana’s alleged instruction to channel R1m to Mbalula through Molefe.

According to the plea, Hannes Peyper, representing Hannes Peyper Incorporated, first met Bozwana in Welkom in the Free State in 2012.

"At all material times, until the date of his demise, Bozwana was the directing mind of the plaintiff (Tsoga Developers CC)," reads the plea.

According to Peyper and his colleague’s plea, the R1m payment forms part of R42m worth of payments made on Bozwana’s instruction. This includes R23.7m paid to Bozwana himself, and a further R17.3m paid to Hannes Peyper Incorporated.

Peyper told News24 that he had made certain payments from the trust account on Bozwana's instruction after Tsoga received the settlement from the North West department of public works and transport. But Peyper said he couldn't recall making any payments that were intended for Mbalula.

Apparent hit

Bozwana died after a group of gunmen opened fire on him and a business associate while they were driving in Pretoria in October 2015. At the time, Bozwana was involved in a drawn-out battle with the North West provincial government over the R456m hospital contract awarded to Tsoga Developers and its joint venture partner, Ilima Projects, in 2008.

The province’s department of public works, roads and transport in 2010 terminated the contract after Ilima Projects was liquidated and Tsoga Developers was found to be without the necessary construction industry grading.

Tsoga then agreed to exit the deal in exchange for a settlement of R23m. The settlement amount later ballooned to nearly R50m because of interest.

At the time of Bozwana’s death, it was widely speculated that the apparent hit was somehow linked to government tenders.

Bozwana was also known as a funder of the ANC.

Mbalula spoke at Bozwana’s funeral and apparently referred to financial benefits he’d derived from his friend.

"He was a generous man. He has shared his money with people including musicians. He was one person I would abuse financially. And sometimes for political reasons," the Sunday World quoted Mbalula as saying at the memorial service.

Hasane told News24: "The late Mr Bozwana was [the] minister’s friend as you correctly point out in your statement."

Parliament’s register of members’ interests from 2010 to 2016 does not reflect any payments made to Mbalula by Bozwana, Tsoga Developers or any other entity linked to Bozwana.

Mbalula has to date also not declared any gifts or donations that relate to the 2015 trip to Las Vegas.

Molefe and his publicist, Lulu Ndevu did not respond to News24’s queries.

*Do you have information for our investigative journalists? Send an e-mail to tips@24.com

Read more on:    tbo touch  |  fikile mbalula  |  tenders

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