19 May 2024 | 06:48 PM

Grant-tender beneficiary flouts the law

Key Takeaways

Mosomo Investment Holdings, the black economic empowerment company positioned to reap handsome rewards from a disputed R10-billion social-grants tender, has repeatedly dodged requests for it to disclose its shareholders and is now in breach of company law.

Through its attorneys, the M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) put Mosomo chief executive Brian Mosehla on notice this week and is considering its legal options.

Last month the Mail & Guardian revealed Mosomo’s links to Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale’s Mvelaphanda Holdings.

Mosehla has repeatedly evaded amaBhungane’s efforts to find out who owns the company.

However, Mvelaphanda has flatly denied that it or Sexwale holds any interest in Mosomo.

Meanwhile, Sexwale’s director general, Thabane Zulu — who served on the South African Social Security Agency’s (Sassa) bid adjudication committee — and a company called African Access Holdings have performed backflips over initial denials that an African Access subsidiary paid Zulu a mysterious R1.4-million at a critical point in the tender process.

They both now admit to the payment, albeit from a different subsidiary.

But they continue to deny that it was a bribe, as alleged by the Sunday Independent a fortnight ago.

No hard evidence that the payment was a bribe has emerged, but serious questions remain unanswered.

The lucrative Sassa contract for the distribution of social-grants payments to millions of beneficiaries throughout South Africa was awarded in January to Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Net1 UEPS.

Days after the contract was awarded, Net1 announced that it had formed a new BEE consortium to be led by Mosomo, which stood to acquire 20% of Net1.

The Sassa contract award to Cash Paymasters is being challenged in court by two losing bidders, Absa-owned AllPay and Empilweni Payout Services, which claim it was irregular.

In trying to establish who owned Mosomo, which Net1 had introduced as a “well-known black empowerment investment company”, the M&G first posed the question to Mosehla at the end of February.

After two weeks and repeated requests, Mosehla had not revealed the company’s shareholders.

The M&G then contacted auditing firm Lucro, which at the time acted as Mosomo’s company secretary, registered address and auditors.

On behalf of amaBhungane, a formal share-register request was lodged in terms of the Companies Act, addressed to Lucro and Mosehla.

Under the provisions of the Act, the company was obliged to reveal its share register within 14 days, but it did not respond.

Following a number of requests and the passage of 16 days, Lucro emailed to say it had resigned as company secretary and registered address — it “did not want to get caught in the middle”, the M&G was told — and all further communication should be directed to Mosehla.

As company secretary, Lucro would have been obliged to ensure that Mosomo acted in accordance with relevant legislation and, as registered address, that it received formal communication for the company.

By resigning, Lucro shirked these responsibilities, although it remained Mosomo’s auditor, and the M&G was left to communicate with Mosehla, who did not respond to emails and hung up when called.

Last month, the M&G also highlighted how a list of community groups, allegedly making up 30% of Mosomo’s consortium with Net1, appeared to be hot air.

Only six of these groups could be traced and none knew anything about the consortium.

Such obfuscation has reinforced the perception that Mosomo has something to hide.

The M&G encountered more ducking, diving and contradictory explanations when it tried to test claims that Zulu had been bribed to influence the social-grants tender.

According to The Sunday Independent, an unnamed BEE company “that stands to benefit” from the Sassa contract paid R2-million to a company called African Access Information and Communication Technology through an unnamed “intermediary”.

In turn, African Access Information and Communication Technology — a subsidiary of African Access Holdings — was said to have paid R1.4-million to Zulu.

The claims were flatly denied by Zulu and the subsidiary.

But when the M&G presented it and Zulu with details of Zulu’s own bank statements this week, there was a flurry of explanation, some contradictory and improbable.

Their response raised the following major questions:

    • They said that the R1.4-million paid to Zulu related to his employment at an African Access Holdings subsidiary. However, this payment was made about 16 months after he had left the company;


    • Zulu and African Access contradicted each other, with African Access saying its subsidiary paid him, while he claimed the payment was from a “totally unrelated” entity;


  • The timing of the payment could be significant in that it occurred just a month before the first bid adjudication meeting on which Zulu sat.

In The Sunday Independent article and immediately afterwards, Zulu and African Access’s denials were absolute.

Zulu called the allegations “preposterous” and his lawyer, Naren Sangham, said: “My client categorically denies receiving the money.”

African Access Information’s ­director, Monwabisi Ludonga, also denied paying money to Zulu.

However, Zulu’s bank records — which were sent to the M&G by a source who also suggested, without evidence, that Zulu had been bribed — show that on October 10 2011 an entity described as “African Access” did pay R1.4-million into his account.

Approached last week to clarify Zulu’s position, Sangham was again unequivocal: Zulu categorically denied receiving R1.4-million from “African Access”.

“We are confident of what we are saying,” he added in response to further questions.

Asked whether “African Access or any related party” had paid R1.4-million to Zulu at the beginning of October, Ludonga was similarly clear in his denial: “We deny having paid Zulu or any other person or entity any sums whatsoever — on behalf of any legal body whatsoever.”

It was only after the M&G approached both parties with details of Zulu’s bank records that a flood of answers was forthcoming.

Zulu and African Access Holdings admitted the payment, but explained their earlier denials by saying that the M&G and The Sunday Independent’s questions had been directed to the wrong branch of African Access.

In the process, attorney Ian Small-Smith emerged as the representative of African Access Holdings and its subsidiaries, including African Access Information and Communication Technology.

Small-Smith has a history of ironing out the legal problems of clients, including Brett Kebble’s self-confessed killers, Mikey Schultz, Nigel McGurk and Faizel Smith, and Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir.

The Sunday Independent had “colloquially and incorrectly” referred to “African Access” in its approach to its subsidiary, Small-Smith said.

Small-Smith explained that Zulu was a former director of the subsidiary and former employee of another African Access Holdings subsidiary, Ptytrade 73.

Explaining the R1.4-million payment, Small-Smith said it was “his outstanding salary, leave and bonuses”, paid by Ptytrade 73.

“[The payment] has nothing whatsoever to do with the awarding of the CPS tender. Had your inquiry been referred to Ptytrade 73, it would have been addressed to everyone’s satisfaction.

“The reference to the payment may well have been ‘African Access’ simply because African Access is the holding company of Zulu’s employer and of the company in which Zulu held a directorship previously.”

He said that as the director of African Access Information, a different subsidiary, Ludonga would not have been aware of this payment.

Contradicting Small-Smith’s explanation that Zulu was paid by an African Access subsidiary, Sangham continued to obfuscate: “Zulu did indeed receive an amount of R1.4-million from another company which is totally unrelated to the companies and persons or entities that you have referred to. The crux of the matter is that you have your wires crossed,” Sangham said.

If their explanations are true, it is remarkable that neither African Access Holdings nor Zulu offered this explanation in response to The Sunday Independent’s damning claims.

It is also questionable that African Access would settle outstanding salary, leave and bonus payments about a year and a half after Zulu left the company.

Sangham said he would request that the Special Investigating Unit and the public protector investigate the allegations made against Zulu “and to institute whatever action it deems fit should the allegations prove to be true, which my client is confident will prove no wrongdoing on [his] part”.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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