Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma’s top bodyguard and head of the presidential protection service (PPS) unit received a significant cash payment from a supplier of blue lights to the unit to purchase a house in an upmarket golf estate.
News24 and Scorpio can reveal that Phineas Manthata, owner of the company Instrumentation for Traffic Law Enforcement (ITLE), in 2012 contributed R700 000 towards the purchase by Major-General Muzingaye Mxolisi Dladla and his then partner of a house in the Blue Valley golf estate in Midrand, Gauteng.
Manthata’s company is a major supplier of emergency lights and related products to numerous units and divisions of the South African Police Service (SAPS), including Dladla’s own unit. The PPS is responsible for protecting President Jacob Zuma, and Dladla is viewed as a long-time ally of Zuma.
Dladla and his then partner, Mogotladi Mogano, an official in the Presidency, bought the house for R3.2 million in July 2012, according to deeds records.
The couple secured a bank loan for R2.72 million, meaning they needed to provide a deposit of R480 000 in order for the transaction to go through.
Dladla and Mogano would also have needed at least another R240 000 to cover the transfer fee and related costs, according to a leading estate agency’s online calculator for property transfers. In total, the couple would therefore have been short to the tune of around R720 000.
News24 has established that Manthata came to the couple’s rescue by directly contributing an amount of R700 000 in order for the transaction to be successfully completed.
Manthata, speaking through his attorney, denied any wrongdoing, but refused to respond to our set of detailed queries around the transaction.
“Our client does not intend to respond to your email, and we reserve our client’s rights to expand upon any issues in the appropriate forum and at the appropriate time should it become necessary. Our client denies any allegations and reserves the right to formally reply should same be necessary,” said Andre du Plessis, Manthata’s lawyer.
The SAPS, Dladla and Mogano all failed to respond to queries around the property deal.
Police spokesperson Major-General Sally De Beer, however, did confirm that Manthata’s company was listed as a registered supplier to the SAPS.
“I have been advised by procurement management that there is no contract in place with the company you mention. Any division or province may make use of the services of the supplier on a quotation basis as they are on the central database for suppliers,” said De Beer.
She added that ITLE was added to the SAPS supplier database in January 2005.
De Beer and fellow SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo both refused to respond to queries around SAPS’ expenditure on products procured from Manthata’s company.
“It is our view that the South African Police Service is accountable to Parliament . . . in terms of the Public Finance Management Act. Therefore, we will not provide you with further details on this matter,” said Naidoo.
ITLE’s website, however, makes no secret of the fact that the SAPS and various metro police departments count among the company’s major clients in South Africa.
The website lists “Office of the President & Deputy President (Presidential Protection Unit), Ministers, MEC’s, VIP Protection, Gauteng Provincial Traffic, Johannesburg Metropolitan Police, Ekhurhuleni Metropolitan Police, Tshwane Metropolitan Police, North-West Provincial Traffic [and] various provincial and municipal traffic departments” as ITLE’s core client base in South Africa.
Bread and butter
Several sources familiar with the SAPS’ business dealings with ITLE have told News24 that the PPS headed by Dladla was ITLE’s foremost client at one stage.
“The Presidential SAPS unit was ITLE’s bread and butter, the company practically specialised in selling blue lights to that unit,” recalls one such source.
Another source says that ITLE fitted blue lights systems to about 35 motorcycles and 15 cars belonging to the PPS, though it is not clear whether this project took place around the time of Dladla and Mogano’s purchase of the Blue Valley property.
“ITLE was the sole distributor of Whelen products. This is an American manufacturer, so their products are very expensive. You could look at amounts of around R100 000 for ITLE to fit just one VIP vehicle or motorcycle with blue lights,” said one of the sources.
Both Dladla and Manthata have had a fair amount of media exposure for all the wrong reasons.
A recent #GuptaLeaks report detailed how a Gupta-linked company tried to buy air tickets for Dladla and Mogano to travel to the Maldives, and how Dladla appeared to have been living in a property owned by another Gupta-linked company.
Mogano confirmed that an offer was made for her and Dladla to travel to the islands, but that they did not take the Gupta-linked company up on its offer.
Dladla, who once served as Zuma’s personal bodyguard before Zuma became president, was charged with attempted murder after he had shot at an elderly motorist in Durban in 2008. He was not convicted on the charges.
Dladla was also among a group of Zuma’s bodyguards who were involved in an armed stand-off with the now-disbanded Scorpions anti-corruption unit when the latter in 2005 raided Zuma’s Johannesburg home.
Manthata has also received a fair amount of negative publicity.
In 2013, Manthata and a group of JMPD officers were detained by police in Limpopo after they were caught travelling in private vehicles with blue lights outside of JMPD officers’ jurisdiction, the Saturday Star reported.
The SAPS officers that accosted Manthata and his JMPD escort allegedly found a bundle of cash in one of the vehicles.
The same newspaper also reported in 2011 that Manthata had been travelling around Johannesburg with a blue lights escort consisting of JMPD vehicles and officers.
* Do you have information for our investigative journalists? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.