Millions of rands paid out for memorial services for Nelson Mandela were splurged on luxury cars, jewellery and high-end clothing by a controversial Durban businessman – and some of it found its way into the account of one of the first ladies.
The Sunday Times can today reveal that politically connected businessman Mabheleni Ntuli was paid R18-million by an events management company owned by businesswoman Carol Bouwer, who enlisted Ntuli as a subcontractor to supply infrastructure for memorial services for Mandela in December 2013 across Mpumalanga.
Bouwer’s company, Carol Bouwer Productions, had been paid R39-million by the Mpumalanga provincial government as the main contractor to organise memorial services to mark Mandela’s death.
While the payment has been reported on before, details of how it was spent are only emerging now.
The money trail seen by the Sunday Times shows that Bouwer subsequently paid out four tranches of R4.5-million each into the bank account of Dartingo Trading 20, a company solely owned by the flamboyant Ntuli.
|Carol Bouwer’s company had allegedly been paid R39-million by the Mpumalanga provincial government to organise memorial services to mark Mandela’s death.
Before the payments the account had a balance of less than R5,000.
Some of the money was later paid from this account to the bank account of one of President Jacob Zuma’s wives, Nompumelelo “MaNtuli” Ntuli-Zuma.
Ntuli, a well-known businessman in Durban, is known to have donated to Zuma trusts in the past.
The Hawks have confirmed that they are investigating a case of fraud and corruption related to tenders awarded by the Mpumalanga government for Mandela memorial services.
“The matter is with the anticorruption task team and the docket is sitting with the prosecutor for further advice,” said Hawks spokesman Hangwani Mulaudzi.
“We are investigating the whole case and process. We are looking at what transpired during that time and out of that we will be able to determine who will be prosecuted.
“The investigation is ongoing. Most of the documents have been collected, so the issue now is that we are waiting for the prosecutor to give further instructions, if there are [any], and then a decision will be taken if they proceed with a prosecution or not.”
The Hawks launched the investigation following a complaint reportedly lodged by the National Treasury after Bouwer’s company was appointed without any tender process being followed. The speed with which payments were made to her in December 2013 also raised questions.
This is the latest development in a series of scandals related to the fraudulent use of public money around Mandela memorials.
“I wouldn’t claim that somebody delivered on something that he didn’t deliver on. I am very forthcoming with information because I have nothing to hide”
In 2014 the Hawks prosecuted top government leaders and senior ANC figures in Buffalo City in the Eastern Cape for fraud related to millions of rands spent on events to mourn Mandela.
It has been established that, just days after receiving payment, Ntuli went on a shopping spree at the SMD Group motor dealership in Ballito, north of Durban, which sells Jaguars, Land Rovers, BMWs and other luxury vehicles.
Ntuli made three payments amounting to R5-million to the dealership.
It could not be verified which cars he bought, but it has been established that on two separate occasions Ntuli spent R2-million at the dealership. In one other instance he spent R1-million.
In the same period Ntuli splurged another R1-million at the SMG Umhlanga Rocks dealership. He also forked out more than R445,000 at jewellery retailer Arthur Kaplan and R42,000 at a Louis Vuitton shop.
Ntuli made a R55,000 payment to MaNtuli on December 31.
MaNtuli’s lawyer, Ulrich Roux, said she had explained that the payment was a gift and that there were many others.
|Politically connected businessman Mabheleni Ntuli was paid R18-million by an events company to supply infrastructure for the Mandela memorial events.
When Ntuli was contacted this week for clarity on the payment to MaNtuli and his relationship to her, he initially denied giving her money but later confirmed that he had.
“I am not related to her, we just share the same surname. Why should I give her money? … There are so many people that I have paid money to … What is wrong with that, because she is not the only one, what about the other people? I know her, we share the same surname. I don’t look at her profile to give her money,” said Ntuli.
Ntuli said he deserved to spoil himself after being paid as he had rendered services.
“I never bought a car for anyone … I don’t know if it is wrong to buy a car … once you have been paid for everything there is nothing wrong with buying a car … I don’t ask you, after your employer has paid you, why you spend your money at Shoprite … You asked me about the payment I made to MaNtuli, how do you know about it if you didn’t get into the account? That is not fair,” said Ntuli.
He said he was not aware of any investigation, and if there was, Bouwer should be its subject.
Roux said: ” She and Mr Ntuli have obviously been close friends for a number of years. They are not family members but in her culture they regard each other as family even though they are not blood family. She is very close to him and that has never been a secret.
“The payment that she received, she said she never questioned it and she regarded it as a gift, she can’t even remember what it was used for because it was a long time ago.
“I am sure if you look deeper into his bank statements there would have been other payments made to her as well and that to her it is nothing she needed to question, it would have been her requesting something and he would have paid it and that is it.”
“There was no way that costing could have been that much. Those were smaller venues”
Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said MaNtuli should account for the payment that was made by Ntuli into her account.
“It is something that has to be explained. It is not enough to just say that it was a gift,” said Lewis.
Bouwer, who rose to fame in the ’90s as an actor in the popular soapie Generations, said she had paid Ntuli as a subcontractor as per their agreement.
“We had a contract with him and he delivered on everything that we asked for and we paid him accordingly. I wouldn’t claim that somebody delivered on something that he didn’t deliver on. I am very forthcoming with information because I have nothing to hide … I am not aware of the Hawks’ investigation. I will have to be careful about what I relay in … public.”
|Some of the money was allegedly later paid from Mabheleni Ntuli’s account to Nompumelelo “MaNtuli” Ntuli-Zuma
She said she had co-operated with the Treasury and submitted documents regarding her subcontractors to the Mpumalanga provincial government. “I think in the beginning stages of there being some rumours about impropriety, National Treasury did get in touch with us … What I said was that I submitted the documents to the province, which were the people I was contracted to. I gave the information to the province to comply. What happened subsequent to that, I don’t get involved,” said Bouwer.
But a government insider with intimate knowledge of the case being investigated told the Sunday Times that there had been no co-operation from the provincial government when the Treasury requested documents.
The Sunday Times understands there was some political pressure for Bouwer to work with the politically connected Durban businessman.
But Bouwer denied this, saying that Ntuli was the only person who could provide the infrastructure she needed at short notice.
It is understood that Ntuli threw his weight around during the events, mentioning his political connections.
A source who wished to remain anonymous said the R18-million charged by Ntuli was inflated and that the events should have cost much less. “There was no way that costing could have been that much. Those were smaller venues,”