EFF leader Julius Malema used VBS-linked loot to splurge on 'big-ticket' purchases - report

EFF leader Julius Malema at the party's Women's Day event in the Northern Cape. (Supplied)
EFF leader Julius Malema at the party's Women's Day event in the Northern Cape. (Supplied)

EFF leader Julius Malema benefited, in part, from the R16.1m which flowed from VBS Mutual Bank to the party's leadership, according to a report.

The Daily Maverick Scorpio team investigation appeared to reveal that Malema, EFF deputy leader Floyd Shivambu, Shivambu's brother Brian, and Malema's cousin Matsobane Phaleng were all implicated in the illicit flow of funds.

Mapping out the VBS money trail, Scorpio uncovered a R16.1m transfer from VBS to Brian Shivambu's company Sgameka Projects – effectively a shell company.

Following this, Scorpio found that at least R5.3m of the R16.1m flowed to Mahuna Investments, a company owned by Phaleng, according to official Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) documents. Scorpio reports that Malema used the Mahuna Investments account as his "personal slush fund and alter ego".

News24 previously reported that a former senior EFF party member accused Malema and Shivambu of financial mismanagement and of accepting a donation from VBS.

READ | EFF taunted over 'VBS looting' after Mabuza sidesteps 'rogue unit' question

Thembinkosi Rawula, who was the EFF's national disciplinary chairperson, told News24 that he had not been shown a report of the party's finances over the past four years.

"We have offices, but we don't know how much we pay for these offices. You will not find any books of the EFF. There is no consistency, there is no accountability. All you see is them living a flashy lifestyle. The lives they are leading is beyond their financial means," Rawula said at the time.

Scorpio analysed a number of Mahuna Investments' bank statements and deduced that Malema used a bank card belonging to the company. In July 2018, Malema allegedly used the card to splurge on items, including luxury fashion brand Gucci and Le Coq Sportif in Sandton City, to the value of R27 094.

In the same month, the Mahuna Investments account was also used to pay R416 900 to Polokwane party venue Mekete Lodge, which according to Scorpio, is a business venture linked to Malema, EFF member Herbert Matlaila and "at least three" of Malema's direct family members, including Phaleng.

Payments matched to Malema's movements

The investigation uncovered at least 35 internet payments over the course of 2017 and 2018 to Mekete Lodge, totalling R2.07m – Mahuna Investments' biggest expense.

In response to questions about the venue, Phaleng said: "We run our hospitality business at Mekete, and we also host public events and bring famous local and national artists and DJs at Mekete, and we charge for entrance and sell food and beverages".

Of Malema's involvement, Phaleng simply said "he attended almost all these events, and he's one of our good patrons, and we really appreciate his support".

READ | Stolen VBS money paid for EFF birthday bash - report

Scorpio reported that neither Malema nor EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi responded to detailed questions sent via email on Thursday, September 5.

Malema himself denied claims that the party was involved in the collapse of VBS Mutual Bank and welcomed calls for an investigation, News24 previously reported.

Malema made the comments during an interview with News24, during which he denied any involvement in both the VBS and the GladAfrica scandals, the latter of which rocked the City of Tshwane over the past year.

"Where corruption directly implicates the EFF, let it be pointed out with proper evidence. We will act on it. There hasn't been anything. You can go to VBS, Bosasa, you can even go to Guptas," Malema said at the time.

At the same time, Malema and the party denied Rawula's allegations, with the EFF leader announcing he was suing the former member over his statement.

Scorpio's detailed investigation traced and matched Malema's movements around the country – from social media accounts and the EFF's events diary – to the Mahuna Investments-linked bank card, which was used to make a number of point-of-sale payments.

The sequence of movements and purchases revealed by the investigation so far, paint a picture of opulence. These include large amounts spent at the Durban July in 2017 and 2018. Money from the account was also spent in East London around the time of the EFF's 5th birthday celebrations at a stadium in Mdantsane, in the Eastern Cape, the report said.

Designer clothing, property upgrades

In around July 2017, Scorpio found that several internet payments reflected R354 000 was paid from the account to KZN establishment, Eyadini Lounge. Scorpio reports that "VBS loot" also paid for expenses at the Durban July in 2017, with an internet transaction reflecting a payment of R538 410 on June 28, described as "Opulent Marquee".

Coinciding with Malema addressing the EFF student command in Johannesburg, in early December 2017, the Mahuna Investments card was also used to pay for purchases at Sandton City Gucci (R9 900) and Louis Vuitton (R11 100) among others. Payments made with the card in Polokwane also reflect during Malema's visits to his hometown.

Money from the Mahuna Investments account was also used to pay Malema's son's school fees, and funds similarly were transferred to the Munzhedzi Family trust, named after Malema's middle son.

Traced payments further revealed Malema's penchant for designer clothing – almost half a million rand was spent over 2017 and 2018 on suits from LM Tailored Suit, fashion designer Linda Makhanya's business. According to Scorpio, Mahuna Investments spent a total of R415 087 over 10 payments marked as "cooperate wear" (sic), with some payments described as "JM" or "JSM".

Malema's house in Sandown, Johannesburg, is reported as another "big-ticket item", with Mahuna Investments effecting four payments totalling around R460 000 towards the house "rented" by Malema since 2012. According to Scorpio, the house was registered as an asset on the EFF"s books earlier this year.

The payments over the course of 2017 and 2018 are linked to upgrades to the property, including a pool. Scorpio has seen deed documents which show that around June 2017, the property was transferred to the name of the "Economic Freedom Fighters" and the purchase price was R5.25m.

Phaleng himself, received a total of R245 000 in "director's fees" paid into his personal account between 2017 and 2018.

In his responses to Scorpio, Phaleng described Mahuna Investments as a "small company" doing things right and denied receiving any VBS money.

  - Compiled by Denver Keytle

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