Hawks take on Mpumalanga’s R70m Mandela memorial case

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Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza
Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza
Adele du Toit

The “exorbitant” costs for Nelson Mandela’s R70 million memorial services in Mpumalanga will be probed by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation. 

The Hawks confirmed that they were investigating a case of violation of procurement procedures relating to the awarding of tenders for the memorial services, which were held in different parts of the province following Mandela’s death in December 2013. 

Premier David Mabuza’s cabinet defended the violations and argued that the memorials were an emergency and therefore tenders could not be advertised. They also conceded that the costs for services and goods were “exorbitant”. 

The cabinet decided against investigating the memorial services expenditure and passed the matter to the provincial legislature. The legislature could do nothing as its term of office was ending on May 7 2014, after the general elections. 

The elite police unit’s spokesperson, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, said the Hawks’ anti-corruption task team took up the case from the Nelspruit police station soon after the national treasury had filed a complaint. 

Treasury supply chain management officials investigated the expenditure following outcries about the cost of the event and that officials in Mabuza’s office appointed service providers by selecting them from the database. According to treasury regulations, tenders above R500 000 must be advertised for a competitive bidding process to take place. 

However, the department was tight-lipped about its findings and recommendations, only saying that it “engaged with the Mpumalanga government on remedial actions” related to the closure of the trust account that had been opened specifically for the memorial services as well as “the breach” of procurement practices. 

“We view this case in a very serious light,” Mulaudzi said. “The complaint we received from treasury was about the violation of tender procedures and the investigation is still ongoing.” 

He could not give details about the specific aspects and value of the tenders under investigation. “We don’t know yet how much was involved.” 

Mabuza’s spokesperson, Zibonele Mncwango, said he was going to check with the director-general, Thulani Mdakane, before responding, but did not come back to City Press. 

The main provincial Mandela event was held at Mbombela Stadium on December 10, while smaller events included a service held in the Middelburg town hall and others were held in marquees in Ermelo, Bushbuckridge, Malalane and Mkhuhlu. 

Former Mpumalanga director-general, Dr Nonhlanhla Mkhize, appointed celebrity events organiser Carol Bouwer’s company as the main contractor and paid her R39.8 million within seven days, according to documents City Press has seen. 

For the province’s main event, held in Mbombela on December 10, Bouwer charged: 

  • R2.9 million for “infrastructure”; 
  • R102 650 for additional cabling and lighting; 
  • R1.4 million for audio; 
  • R501 000 for videography; 
  • R65 550 for technical support; 
  • R176 500 for security; 
  • A R2.3 million management fee; and 
  • A R782 000 contingency fee. 

An invoice for the Mbombela event and the December 11 event in Middelburg revealed that for the two memorial services, Carol Bouwer Productions claimed for 100 000 T-shirts worth R3.6 million – R36 each – and 500 000 bottles of water at R4.20 each. 

The invoice was dated December 11. 

But according to a statement from Premier David Mabuza’s office, 80 000 people attended the Mbombela event at a local stadium and 10 000 were at the event in Middleburg’s municipal hall. This meant 10 000 extra shirts and 410 000 extra bottles of water were ordered for the two events. 

The two events cost R21.4 million, which was paid in full on December 12, according to a bank statement and a letter signed by Mpumalanga’s director-general, Dr Nonhlanhla Mkhize, asking Standard Bank to transfer the money electronically. 

Bouwer charged R18.3 million for three smaller events in Ermelo, Bushbuckridge and Driekoppies, near Malelane. 

A source in national treasury, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, indicated to City Press that Carol Bouwer Productions was paid a total amount of R44 million. He said that payments were also traced from the company’s accounts to other individuals. 

City Press was unable to get comment from Bouwer because the Cape Town number listed on her company’s website was not working. 

The costs of the memorial services emptied the premier’s office coffers. The legislature was forced to pass the Mpumalanga Special Adjustment Appropriation Bill to replace the money by diverting service delivery funds from social welfare services, public works roads and transport, cooperative governance and traditional affairs, human settlements and finance departments. 

The legislature approved the budget adjustment, which Mabuza signed on April 10 2014, and soon thereafter general elections were held and its term expired. 

The Economic Freedom Fighters and Democratic Alliance have since lodged a complaint with Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s Mbombela office.

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