Newly appointed State Security Minister Bongani Bongo is under investigation for alleged corrupt land transactions during his time as legal adviser in the Mpumalanga provincial government.
The probe covers the allegedly suspicious purchase of a BMW by Bongo’s brother using money from a conveyancer. Only Bongani Bongo used the car.
City Press has seen a letter in which acting Hawks head Yolisa Matakata updates Police Minister Fikile Mbalula about the probe, which names Bongo as one of the implicated people.
As Mpumalanga human settlements department legal adviser, Bongo was responsible for drafting the contracts for the purchase of Rietspruit farm (Ermelo), Portion 156 of the farm Malelane and Naauwpoort (Emalahleni). They were collectively sold for millions more than their actual price.
The letter, which implicates Bongo, was signed seven days after President Jacob Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet on October 17, promoting the ANC backbencher to the crucial portfolio of state security.
In the letter, Matakata tells Mbalula that Bongo drafted the contracts for the purchase of the three farms. Payments to buy the properties were signed off without adhering to the clause in the contracts that stipulate that money must be paid once the required paperwork has been finalised.
“Cellphone records also indicate that Bongo instructed the Emalahleni municipal manager to sign the purchase of the farm before the land had been acquired by the municipality,” Matakata writes.
“During the investigation it was discovered that an amount of R300 000 was channelled from the Singwane trust account, the conveyancer, to BMW Sandton as the deposit for the BMW which was registered in the name of Joel Bongo, who is the brother of Bongani Bongo.
“Upon investigation it was discovered that the same vehicle was used by Bongani Bongo.
“Tracker records revealed that the same vehicle was used entirely by Bongani Bongo from his house in Nelspruit to his place of work.
“He used the car as his and claimed for [travelled] kilometres from human resources of the department of human settlements”, Matakata explains.
The Hawks investigation focuses on three parcels of land the Mpumalanga department of human settlements purchased on behalf of the Msukaligwa, Nkomazi and Emalahleni municipalities for township development, at inflated prices, in 2011.
The 414-hectare Rietspruit was valued at R11.9m, but the department bought it for R36.4m. The value of the 70 ha Malelane farm was R41m, but the department spent R50m on it. The 74.2ha Naauwpoort was valued at R2.1m, but the department bought it for an astronomical R37.5m.
The three farms cost the Mpumalanga human settlements department a total of R123.9m.
"Nothing sinister with the transfer"
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed to City Press that an investigation was under way. “We are not at liberty to discuss the status of the case. Once the investigations have been finalised, and as the per the normal procedure, the case will taken to the NPA for a decision.”
Prosecutors Jan Ferreira and Gerald van der Eerde had been assigned to the matter, Matakata writes.
Mulaudzi confirmed the letter was sent, saying that it was part of internal processes.
“There is nothing wrong with informing the minister of police. The letter is part of our own internal protocols to apprise the office of the minister about investigations.”
Matakata states in the letter that the investigation into the land deals is ongoing. Warning statements have been obtained from “possible suspects” including Bongo, former Mpumalanga human settlements head David Dube, conveyancer Mduduzi Singwane and directors of Little Trading 156 (Pty) Ltd.
Little Trading – owned by town planners Patrick Chirwa, Harrington Dhlamini and Robert Burwise – facilitated the purchase of Naauwpoort. For the Rietspruit and Malelane farms, the purchase was facilitated by Bongiveli CC.
State Security spokesperson Brian Dube said Bongo conducted himself “lawfully in keeping with the policies of the department”. Dube said Bongo was unaware of any “lawful investigation” against him.
“As regards matters concerned with other entities and or individuals and how they conducted themselves, [Bongo] advises that same cannot be asked of him and refers you to them,” he said.
Matakata says one of the three farms the department purchased was bought for R36m, even though it had been valued at R11m. Here, she was apparently referring to Rietspruit.
Attempts to get comment from Dhlamini and Burwise proved fruitless as their cellphones rang unanswered. They did not respond to text messages. Chirwa answered but dropped the call and thereafter did not answer his cellphone.
Singwane denied having done anything untoward.
“I gave a statement to the police to explain that, after the transfer of the land has taken place, the seller has ownership of the money. The sellers tells you, as the conveyancer, what happens with the money. An issue can arise when the seller says the conveyancer robbed him,” he said.
Bongo was among senior human settlements officials who Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza removed from the department in 2012. Mabuza placed Bongo in the integrity management unit in his office. Dube’s contract was not renewed.
Mabuza’s spokesperson, Zibonele Mncwango, said Bongo’s removal had nothing to do with the dodgy deals, but was due to “stagnation” in the roll-out of RDP houses.
“There was nothing sinister with the transfer. It was based on a comprehensive evaluation of the government work,” Mncwango said.