Millions of rands in Lottery money intended to build a school in Limpopo were spent on a house for the Commissioner of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), Thabang Mampane.
The money for the house, in an upmarket golf estate close to Hartbeespoort Dam in North West Province, was channelled through Upbrand Properties, a private company closely linked to the NLC’s Chief Operating Officer Phillemon Letwaba and his family.
The R3.6-million house in Pecanwood Estate is registered in the name of the Mojakgomo Family Trust. Mampane and her husband, Solomon, are both trustees of the trust, according to official records.
The couple and their two adult children are all beneficiaries of the trust.
The Mojakgomo Family Trust was established on 15 August 2016.
On 29 August 2016, a non-profit organisation, Simba Community Development Foundation, received more than R25-million — the first tranche of a R28.3 million grant — to rebuild Vhafamadi school, which had been gutted by fire during protests the previous year. On the same day, Simba paid R4 million to Upbrand Properties. Before the deposit by the NLC, Simba had a balance of only R225.73 in its bank account.
At the time, Johannes Letwaba, the brother of Phillemon Letwaba, then the chief financial officer of the NLC, was the sole director of Upbrand Properties.
Before the payment from Simba, Upbrand had a balance of R100,201 in its bank account. As soon as the money landed, Upbrand proceeded to make numerous payments, including R100 000 for the roof slab for Letwaba’s home in the village of Marapyane in Mpumalanga.
By 12 September the balance in the account had dropped to R3 514 821 - until it was topped up by a R500,000 deposit from Ironbridge Travelling Agency that same day. Letwaba’s wife, Rebotile Malomane is now a director of Ironbridge. Letwaba’s cousin was the sole director at the time.
Ironbridge had earlier received R2 million from Simba Community Development Foundation on 29 August 2016.
The next day, three separate payments – R68 600, R20 000 and R24 240 – came into Upbrand from Shandukani Holdings, which did some of the construction work at the school. Shandukani’s owner, Mashudu Shandukani, said:
With the account topped up, Upbrand then paid R3.6 million to Jacobs Robbertse Attorneys, the lawyers acting in the sale of the house to Mampane. The purchase price was paid in full and no mortgage bond was registered over the property.
Upbrand also made an additional payment of R269 848 to cover transfer and legal costs. The house was registered in the name of the trust on 1 December 2016.
The payments from Simba to Upbrand, and then to Jacobs Robbertse, are reflected in Simba and Upbrand bank statements, which GroundUp has seen.
Simba is headed up by Azwindini Simba, a boxing promoter with no experience in construction. The company was dormant at the time it received the grant and was not compliant with statutory Department of Social Development (DSD) requirements, according to the department’s records.
Simba supplied financial statements with its application to the NLC, but according to a well-informed source, it submitted an affidavit to the DSD claiming no financial activity during the financial year when the grant was awarded.
The financial statements included in the NLC application are believed to be fraudulent, according to the same source.
The grant of R28.3 million to Simba to rebuild Vhufamadi was recommended to the NLC’s board by Mampane and the chairperson of the Commission’s Charities distributing agency.
NLC spokesperson Ndivhuho Mafela said in an emailed response to GroundUp’s questions, “The issues and transactions referred to in the inquiry are currently being canvassed through an investigation the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) is conducting on the affairs of the National Lotteries Commission.
“At this stage, the NLC will not be commenting on media inquiries that require details of grants awarded between 2014 and 2020 as well as related transactions. This is to allow the SIU to conduct this investigation without any hindrance or prejudice.”
Mampane had not responded to questions sent by GroundUp by the time of publication.
Millions in, millions outBank statements show how, after it received the first tranche of over R25 million, Simba made three payments totalling R15 million to Mshandukani Holdings, which built parts of the new Vhafamadi School. But Simba also immediately began paying millions to companies that had nothing to do with the school.
Simba had only R225.73 in its account before the NLC payment landed.
Besides the R4-million paid to Upbrand, other payments by Simba include:
On 22 August Mishone Trading 11 received R1.5-million. Mishone is subject to a preservation order involving the purchase of a R27-million mansion by a company owned by former NLC board chairperson Alfred Nevhutanda.
GroundUp previously reported that Mishone paid R9.2-million towards the cost of the mansion, which was partially paid for by non-profit companies that received Lottery grants. Nevhutanda and his wife live in the house.
During a presentation to Parliament in March this year, Special Investigating Unit head advocate Andy Mothibi said investigations had identified Mishone as a “vehicle to distribute NLC funds” to businesses “directed by” members of NLC Chief Operating Officer Phillemon Letwaba’s family.
Also on 22 August, Simba paid R160 000 to Ndavha Management, of which Collin Tshisimba is the sole director. Tshisimba is also a member of three other non-profit organisations – Make Me Movement, Lethabong Old Age and Mbidzo Development Program – which together received a total of R53 million in Lottery funding.
The SIU has identified Tshisimba as a key player in the looting of the Lottery.Also on 22 August, Simba made three payments totalling R15 million to Mshandukani Holdings, which built parts of the new Vhafamadi School.
On 29 August Simba paid R2 million to the Iron Bridge Travelling Agency, of which Karabo Sithole, Letwaba’s cousin was sole director at the time. Rebotile Malomane, Letwaba’s wife, is now the sole director. Within 12 days of Simba receiving the Lottery grant, the balance in its bank account had dwindled to R2.4-million.
This means that the purchase price of the Mampanes’ property, as well as the transfer duty and lawyer’s fees, was paid by Upbrand Properties, from Lottery money.
In 2018, the NLC lodged a complaint with the Press Ombudsman about GroundUp’s reporting on the Vhafamadi school project but withdrew it before it could be adjudicated.
Solly Siweya pops up againThe R100 fee paid to the Master’s Office to register the Mampanes’ Mojakgomo Family Trust was paid by the Malwandla Siweya Family Trust on 12 August 2016.
Malwandla “Solly” Siweya is involved with non-profit companies that have received tens of millions of rands in Lottery grants. Lulamisa Community Development, a dormant non-profit organisation, received R80 million for a sport-related project. Both the NLC and Lulamisa have previously refused to say what the money was for and how it was spent.
Lulamisa and Siweya also featured in a R25 million grant to the South African Sports Association for the Intellectually Impaired (SASA-II), a sports body for intellectually impaired athletes, to host a Bloemfontein event. How the money was spent is not clear.
Siweya was also the middleman in the purchase of a luxury house in Bryanston, in Johannesburg, by Upbrand Properties. Then Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and his wife originally made an offer to purchase the house, but then withdrew. The deal went ahead with exactly the same terms and price, but with Upbrand as the buyer.
And Siweya helped arrange a holiday for Mbalula, then Minister of Sport, and his family in Dubai in December 2016, according to a report by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Mkhwebane found that Mbalula had violated the Executive Ethics Code.
This article was first published by GroundUp. It has been updated to remove a paragraph that made claims about disciplinary action faced by Mampane.