Johannesburg - Less than a week after Prasa made its first payment of nearly R500 million to the supplier of the controversial Afro4000 locomotives, the latter's managing director paid an amount of R14.3 million into the account of a lawyer who had introduced himself as a fundraiser for the ANC.
This transaction by Auswell Mashaba, MD of the Swifambo Rail Leasing, would be the first of several payments totalling R80 million that were made by Mashaba to George Sabelo, the ANC-linked lawyer, and Maria Gomes, an Angolan citizen who calls herself a friend of President Jacob Zuma.
These details are contained in Mashaba's latest court filings in the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (Prasa) court bid to have the contract with Swifambo set aside. Mashaba denies that the payments he'd made to Sabelo and Gomes were linked to the Prasa contract.
The chronology of the events around Swifambo's first payment from Prasa and Mashaba's subsequent payments to Sabelo and Gomes, however, casts doubt over Mashaba's claims.
In his latest affidavit, Mashaba describes a meeting he'd had with former Prasa chair Popo Molefe, another Prasa board member and a Prasa employee at the Maslow hotel in Sandton at the end of August 2015. The meeting took place in the wake of revelations that the locomotives procured by Mashaba's company were too tall for South Africa's rail network.
"At the meeting on 31 August 2015, Mr Molefe asked me whether I supported the ANC financially. I did not think there was anything untoward about this line of questioning, as I held Mr Molefe in high regard and understood him to be a loyal, respected senior member of the ANC," reads Mashaba's affidavit.
"I reasonably assumed that Mr Molefe was enquiring as to my personal contributions toward the ANC. Mr Molefe certainly neither clarified nor even implied that he requested this information in respect of Swifambo, in which instance, I would have answered that, to my knowledge, no donations had been made by Swifambo to the ANC," maintains Mashaba.
In the next paragraph, Mashaba unpacks the "personal contributions" he'd made to Sabelo and Gomes after Swifambo had won the Prasa tender.
"Concerning my contributions (which are wholly irrelevant to this matter): I was contacted by Mr Sabelo, a member of the ANC who professed to be a fundraiser for the ANC. He introduced me to Ms Gomes, who he informed me was also a fundraiser for the ANC," wrote Mashaba.
A payment schedule attached to Mashaba's court papers indicates that Mashaba made his first payment of R14.3 million to Sabelo's law firm, Nkosi Sabelo Incorporated, on April 11, 2013. This was less than a week after Prasa paid Swifambo Rail Holdings an amount of R460 million in relation to the locomotives contract.
Mashaba, in his affidavit, admits that Swifambo Rail Holdings had made at least one payment to the benefit of Sabelo's law firm. One of the accompanying documents confirms that an amount of R10.4 million was paid from the account of Swifambo Rail Holdings to Nkosi Sabelo Incorporated in May 2013.
Seeing as Swifambo Rail Leasing, and not Swifambo Rail Holdings, clinched the Prasa contract, Mashaba maintains that the above payment to the ANC fundraiser was not linked to the Prasa contract. However, Mashaba's affidavit does not mention the fact that it was Swifambo Rail Holdings, and not Swifambo Rail Leasing, that received Prasa's first payment of R460 million.
The other payments by Mashaba to Sabelo were done through another of his companies, AM Consulting Engineers, and in his personal capacity, according to the court papers.
When asked to clarify these transactions, Mashaba said he will not provide comment before the court case is concluded.
"We made a full submission to court. I won't submit myself to a pre-trial. We are going to court in June, you can ask me these questions then," Mashaba told News24.
According to the payment schedule attached to the affidavit, Mashaba's companies paid Sabelo's law firm just under R39 million in April and May 2013. Sabelo, who is listed on CIPC records as a business partner to President Zuma's son, Edward, was previously implicated in allegedly corrupt contracts awarded by PetroSA.
In 2014, Mashaba made payments totalling over R40 million to Similex, a company whose one director is Angolan citizen Maria Gomes. When this reporter previously went to Similex's registered address – a house in an upmarket residential complex in Sandton – one of the neighbours said President Zuma regularly visits Gomes.
Gomes later admitted that she is a friend of Zuma.
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She also claimed that the money her company had received from Swifambo was for work she did on the Prasa contract. This seems to be at odds with Mashaba's claims that his contributions to Gomes and Sabelo were in no way related to the locomotives tender.
In court papers filed by former Prasa CEO Lucky Montana in the Swifambo matter this week, Montana also weighs in on the issue of the alleged payments to the ANC.
“I have noted that the ANC had issued a public statement denying ever receiving money from Prasa, Mr Mashaba or Swifambo. As a senior member of the ANC, I expected Mr Molefe to consult with the ANC first to verify these false claims,” Montana says in his affidavit.
However, Montana’s court filings makes no mention of the possibility that it was Gomes and Sabelo, and not Mashaba or Swifambo, who possibly made the payments to the ANC.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa did not respond to queries over whether Gomes or Sabelo were indeed fundraisers for the ANC.
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