What goes on behind the high walls?

Who really lives behind those high walls? City Press takes you inside. Picture: iStock
Who really lives behind those high walls? City Press takes you inside. Picture: iStock

The most affluent suburb in Sandton is home to banking and corporate bigwigs, a king, a few thieves and some dodgy characters. We look at who really makes up the 0.1%.

The millionaires’ suburb of Sandhurst houses an increasingly eclectic and Pan-African elite. It is home to a large number of bankers and industrialists, as well as alleged criminals and fraudsters. It bristles with continent-wide political connections.

Eric Wood of Trillian state capture infamy has a place there near two mansions owned by Dave King, the infamous tax dodger who reached a R700 million settlement with the SA Revenue Service in 2013.

Until recently, their neighbours included Ngozi Juliet Olejeme, who used to run the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund and stands accused of stealing more than R2 billion from it. Her R30 million house on Coronation Road was auctioned off this month after her arrest late last year.

Publicly available information from the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC), the Pretoria deeds office and the City of Johannesburg general valuation roll reveals that Sandhurst is also home to banking bigwigs like former FirstRand chief executive Sizwe Nxasana and Peter Matlare, deputy chief executive of Absa.

A stone’s throw away you will find a mansion belonging to Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II, the 16th Asantehene, or traditional ruler of the kingdom of Ashanti in Ghana.

The Asantehene’s next-door neighbours are a retired Zimbabwean judge on one side and Zambian businessman James Ndambo on the other. Ndambo briefly made headlines in the past for being a notable patron of the Jacob Zuma Foundation.

Sandhurst also demonstrates why a useful audit of land ownership by race, as recently attempted by the government, is nearly impossible to do. Around half the houses are owned through companies or trusts. Many of these have made an effort to hide their ultimate owners, and City Press’ best efforts could not pierce this armour.

A fair amount of Sandhurst is owned by property management companies. The United States and China have consulates there and the African Union and Kingdom of Lesotho also own Sandhurst properties.

The neighbourhood itself seems to be a mechanism for tax evasion. According to the 2018 general valuation roll of the City of Johannesburg, all the mansions in Sandhurst put together are worth around R5 billion.

The city, however, gives several individual houses suspiciously low values with no relation to market prices, a situation that would lead to Sandhurst’s residents paying less than their fair share of property rates to the city.

The value gap is often huge. City Press found a house on Cleveland Street valued at R30 million by the city, but recently sold for R41.5 million. Another one in Coronation Road is supposedly worth R17 million, but was bought a few years back for R27 million. Sandhurst homes are generally valued between R10 million and R30 million.

Many familiar faces from South Africa’s corporate elite live cheek by jowl with political elites. Former MTN chief executive Sifiso Dabengwa lives not far from property mogul Elias Maponya.

They share their street with Grace Mugabe’s son from a previous marriage, Russell Goreraza, as well as Nosazena Enaholo, daughter of former governor of Nigeria’s Edo state, Lucky Igbinedion. Enaholo has trouble back home, where she is fighting off a debt judgment of $3.2 million.

A number of Nigerian millionaires have pads in Sandhurst, including magnate Babatunde Folawiyo who has two – each worth well over R20 million.

In another street close by, Samora Machel Junior, son of the late Mozambican president, has a house. The son of current Mozambican president Filipe Nyusi, who has the same name, can be found in the same suburb.

One of his neighbours is Investec chair Fani Titi.

A recent addition to Sandhurst is David Langa, formerly chair of the Land Bank and now a growing force in the coal industry. He lives next to a paragon of a bygone South Africa, former Anglo American deputy chair William Graham Boustred. In 2009 Boustred gave an infamous interview at the age of 84, saying he might emigrate to the Isle of Man because there were no Muslims or blacks there.

He also complained that Anglo American was at the time run by a “sexually frustrated woman”, Cynthia Carroll.

The Krok family, which made much of its fortune with skin-lightening creams, also have a house in the neighbourhood.

Mark Lamberti, who recently resigned as chief executive of Imperial after his own race row, can be found there too.

Another notable expat lives on the same street as Lamberti: Bento Dos Santos, a member of the Angolan first family and formerly a general in the Angolan army who, a few years back, faced an Interpol arrest warrant in relation to sex trafficking in Brazil. He owns diamond mines back home.

The armoured vehicle business is well-represented on one of the suburb’s leafy streets. People tied to the Paramount Group, Leonard Karpes and the Ichikowitz family, own no less than four properties worth a collective R90 million.

On the same road you will find Turkish coal mine owner Vuslat Bayoglu, whose brother recently acquired another South African armoured vehicle manufacturer, Milkor.

Hlumelo Biko, son of Steve Biko and Mamphela Ramphele, also lives nearby.

A stone’s throw away you will find Jean- Philippe Amvame N’Dong, a friend to the first family of the Republic of Congo who was accused a few years ago of being paid millions to on-sell oil for the state-owned refinery at a massive and effortless margin.

Across the road from N’Dong is nightclub owner Chris Coutroulis and his wife, former Miss SA Vanessa Carreira.

Emerging coal magnate Mojalefa Landlord Mbethe lives down the road, as does the advocate recently representing the Gupta family, Ahmed Bhana. – Additional reporting by Kayla Rachbuch

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July 2020

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