Project Moetapele: Ace Magashule's dirty little Gupta secret

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African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General Ace Magashule during a media briefing about his meeting with former president Jacob Zuma. (Alon Skuy, file)
African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General Ace Magashule during a media briefing about his meeting with former president Jacob Zuma. (Alon Skuy, file)

Between 2006 and 2009, ANC secretary general Ace Magashule was a business partner of Rajesh "Tony" Gupta - and records in the Gupta leaks show around R100 000 was paid from Gupta-owned Sahara Systems to their company.

One payment reference was captured in accounting records as "Mr Ace".

Magashule and Gupta's shared directorship of a mysterious company named Moetapele Projects has provided the first documentary evidence giving reliable clues to the origins of Magashule's relationship with the controversial Gupta family.

Magashule and Gupta were appointed as directors on August 4, 2006. Magashule resigned on 10 September 2009 – a few months after he was first appointed as Free State premier by former president Jacob Zuma.

Scorpions shut down

The word "Moetapele", which means "leader", has other significance in relation to Magashule. In 2007, the elite crime busting Scorpions had multiple investigations into Magashule. One was dubbed "Project Moetapele".

Under mounting political pressure, the Scorpions were shut down in 2009, around the same time Magashule ascended to power in the Free State.

Gupta, who since 2016 has resigned from various companies, is still a director of Moetapele.

Also on August 4, 2006 Abdul Wahab Jaffer, a long-time attorney for the Gupta family, resigned as a director of Moetapele Projects.

On August 16, 2006 the company's name was changed from Hillbay Trading to Moetapele Projects.

Contained in the Gupta leaks are accounting records that show while Magashule was a director of Moetapele Projects, payments totalling roughly R100 000 were made from Sahara Systems to Moetapele.

Incomplete records

The records are not complete, and there may be further payments. There is also no indication what these payments were in aid of.

Magashule was appointed MEC for sports, arts and culture in the Free State in August 2007.

Magashule, through his spokesperson, was asked this week if any funds paid to Moetapele were for his personal benefit, and also what the purpose of the company was.

He did not respond.

On Friday, former MEC for economic development in the Free State Mxolisi Dukwana testified before the Zondo Commission into state capture that he had been taken to Gupta-owned Sahara's offices in 2009 by Magashule.

READ: 'Brother Ace' gets a million - Tony Gupta allegedly tells Dukwana

Once there, Rajesh Gupta gave them a tour of the building. Magashule then handed over his identity document and allegedly told Dukwana he was going into business with Gupta.

Dukwana also testified that during a meeting in 2011, Gupta had allegedly told him he personally delivered R1m in cash a month to Magashule's home.

Historical battle

In his bombshell new book, Gangster State, Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture, investigative journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh writes that Magashule was appointed as MEC in 2007 by then president Thabo Mbeki.

In exchange, Magashule was supposed to rally a faction in the Free State ANC to support Mbeki in the 2007 National Elective Conference held in Polokwane. Zuma ousted Mbeki during the conference.

"Zuma had somehow managed to win Magashule's backing," Myburgh wrote.

This during the time Magashule was a director in a business with a member of the Gupta family, and funds were being paid from a Gupta company to Moetapele.

READ: 'Mr Ten percent' - How Ace Magashule captured the Free State

Magashule then, played a crucial role in securing support for Zuma among the ANC rank and file in the Free State province, despite Zuma also blocking his appointment as premier previously.

Zuma and the Gupta family have a long-standing friendship, a relationship that came under intense scrutiny during his presidency.

In return for Magashule swinging support Zuma's way in 2007, Magashule was made premier in 2009 when Zuma was sworn in as president.

In 2017, Magashule became the secretary general of the ANC and is widely regarded as still loyal to Zuma.

Investigations

Myburgh further writes that the former elite crime busting unit, the Scorpions, had been investigating Magashule in 2007.

The name of the project the Scorpios were running, coincidentally, was Project Moetapele.

Former Scorpions boss General Shadrack Sibiya confirms in the book that Magashule was aware he was under investigation by the Scorpions.

Magashule was facing multiple investigations into wrongdoing by the Scorpions, the book reveals.

Sibiya would not divulge any details of Project Moetapele when approached by News24, saying that after the Scorpions were disbanded in 2009 all their dockets were handed over to the South African Police Service.

READ: 'Pieter Louis Myburgh is a blatant liar' - 'credible leader' Ace Magashule speaks out

Magashule has denied the allegations contained in Myburgh's book, but is facing increasingly tough questions over the claims that have dogged his footsteps for a decade.

The latest he will have to answer are over his business link to Rajesh Gupta, and what the purpose of Moetapele was.

And what the Gupta family asked and received of him in return.

*Do you have a tip for our investigative journalists? Send and email to tips@24.com

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