Using her ministry’s travel allowance, she organised trips to facilitate the wedding plans of her niece and a clerk in her office
Social development deputy minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu offered to take a would-be in-law employed in her office on four international trips so that he could save up money to pay lobolo for her niece.
Zwidofhela Mafoko, an administrative clerk in the deputy minister’s office, benefited from government’s subsistence and travel (S&T) allowance.
He eventually married Bogopane-Zulu’s niece, Nompumelelo Msibi, in 2017.
The conversation in which the deputy minister made the offer took place in 2016.
It was encapsulated in an audio recording, which City Press has obtained.
Bogopane-Zulu confirmed to City Press last week that it was her voice in the audio recording, but said that what she did was not unlawful as “it is the mother in me trying to help a young South African”.
Msibi is the daughter of the elder sister of the deputy minister’s husband, Simon.
Bogopane-Zulu said Mafoko approached her in 2016 for help.
Mafoko, she said, initially asked to be promoted from his middle-level position to a vacant deputy director post, saying he was unable to afford lobolo.
But, Bogopane-Zulu said, she declined because he had been promoted to a higher-level post three months earlier.
In addition, he did not meet the requirements for the deputy director post.
The recording has surfaced as allegations of extortion have emerged following Mafoko’s conviction and sentence on rape charges in 2018.
Mafoko is currently out on bail, pending the appeal of his conviction and sentence.
In the recording, Bogopane-Zulu can be heard saying she wants to assist Mafoko to conclude the traditional aspects of the wedding.
“So, you are going to listen to me ... I am not going to control you [unclear] but I want what is best for you … I want to be able to help you so that you conclude at least this process … I’m going to put you in four of my international trips to assist you because I really want this process closed, so that you can take Mpumi [Msibi].
“You are going to join me on four international trips. Those international trips alone give you R40 000. Their S&T … you are going to end up paying R20 000 [for lobolo].”
“So, I’ve got four trips, but I need you to be disciplined. For instance, going to Vienna for a week is R15 000 [or] it’s R18 000. So, you use R8 000 for whatever but you put R10 000 away. Uya understander.
“You already have R10 000. You are going to New York … So, all in all, you will have plus-minus R40 000 to R50 000 by the end of April, and that is not your salary.
“It’s not your money. It’s your S&T that you can use a little bit of [unclear as she begins speaking Sepedi] and use it to do this traditional part.”
Bogopane-Zulu told City Press that she wanted to assist Mafoko, who has a disability, by including him on the list of staff she would rotate when she undertook government overseas travels.
She said she was the one who had introduced this culture of rotating staff to accompany her on international trips, and Mafoko was among those to whom she had given that opportunity.
“So, I did not misuse any public funds; neither did I advise or motivate for anyone to get more than what the public service prescribes because that is a directive from the public service.
“Even in the recording, it is the mother in me trying to help a young South African who is trying to do something right, and that is me … You ask for advice and I try to assist.
“Even in the assistance I did not break any laws. I used what was there to try to assist, without stepping outside any boundaries. I said: ‘What can I do to assist?’
“And I still state that I am a person who respects South African laws. But helping is who I am. When I am approached to assist, I assist. When I am asked for advice, if I can give it, I give it.
“It is very sad that something so private should be in the papers,” Bogopane-Zulu said.
A staff member in Bogopane-Zulu’s office showed City Press the schedule for the international trips in which she was accompanied by Mafoko after the 2016 recorded conversation.
Four trips were promised in the recording, but three actually materialised. Two of them happened in 2016, and one in 2018.
The first was a trip to New York to attend a UN disability conference; the second was a trip to Geneva, Switzerland, for a UN gathering on albinism; and the third was a trip to Eswatini, where Bogopane-Zulu negotiated with that country’s government to adopt the Southern African Development Community protocol on disability and albinism.
CLAIMS OF EXTORTION
Bogopane-Zulu said she first met Mafoko when she was deputy minister in the public works department. She said shortly after her arrival there, she had asked the human resources division if it had an intern with a disability whom she could recruit in her office. She was told about Mafoko. The department had been unable to hire him and he was now working as a fruit and vegetable vendor close to her offices in the Pretoria CBD.
However, Mafoko disputed this account, saying he was a photographer at the time.
Bogopane-Zulu said that when she first met Mafoko, she introduced herself and asked about his disability.
He told her that his arm was disabled. She then asked him to bring his CV to her, which he did the next day.
Mafoko’s CV indicated that he had passed matric and was doing courses at the University of SA.
Mafoko said he met his future wife at a wedding he had attended with the deputy minister and other colleagues.
However, in the middle of the lobolo negotiations, Mafoko was charged with rape in 2016. He continued to work while out on bail.
He lost his job in 2018, after being convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released on bail pending the appeal.
Bogopane-Zulu said shortly after Mafoko was released, she was informed that he had sent a series of text messages to both her husband and the head of her office, Mathuto Motumi.
The messages appeared to be between Mafoko and a certain William du Toit, who wrote his messages in Afrikaans.
In his messages, Du Toit demanded money from Mafoko and threatened to release the 2016 recording of the lobolo conversation that Mafoko had had with the deputy minister.
Bogopane-Zulu saw the messages as an attempt to blackmail her.
“I responded and said: ‘Look, if Zwido [Mafoko] was recording me as an employee in my office for whatever reason, can he please go ahead. I’ve never done anything wrong in my line of work, so I’m not going to be blackmailed by Zwido and whoever else or whatever tricks he learnt from prison.’”
She instructed her chief of staff to deal with the matter, even if it involved sending the recording to the State Security Agency for verification.
“I said: ‘Mina, I don’t think we should even entertain [him]. Nobody is going to blackmail me or extort [money from] me. Zwido must not practise what he learnt in prison on me.’ And I left it there.”
Bogopane-Zulu said it was later discovered that the messages came from Mafoko’s alternative phone number.
Mafoko has disputed having attempted to blackmail and extort money from Bogopane-Zulu.
Journalist | City Press
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