A leaked forensic report shows how the minister of state security, Thomas Bongani Bongo, may have illegally benefited from money that the Mpumalanga provincial government paid for the purchase of land at Emalahleni local municipality.
Bongo, (referred to in the report as B Bongo) is one of high-ranking politicians who are fingered for having improperly benefitted from dodgy land deals which cost the government more than R123 million, while he was still the head of legal services in the province’s department of human settlements,
The report is believed to have been commissioned by the Special Investigation Unit’s Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT) report shows that the department paid R37,5 million for the purchase of land which was worth only R15 million.
On 23 December 2010, the department paid the R37,5 million to a Mbombela based law firm, Singwane and Partners, which in turn, paid the land owner, a Petrus van Tonder, R15 million, and the remainder of the money, R22,5 million, was paid to a company called Little River Trading 256 (Pty) Ltd on the same day.
One of the directors of the company is a Mpumalanga tenderpreneur, Harrington Dhlamini. The two other directors are Patrick Chirwa and Robert Burwise. All three of them are also directors in a company called Pacific Breeze.
The director of SIngwane and Partners, Mduduzi Singwane justified the payment of the R22,5 million to Little River Trading.
“… note that, the seller being PJ and PJ van Tonder had entered into a further agreement with Little River Trading 156 (Pty) LTD for land availability for purposes of developing a township. The body of the agreement indicates the obligation of the parties to each other and how payment should be distributed,” said Singwane.
The report claims that Dhlamini used part of this money to make two payments of R300 000 to Northcliff Auto BMW on 15 March 2011 and 25 May 2011 respectively towards the purchase of a BMW X5, worth R1,384,527.50 for minister Bongo’s younger brother, Joel (referred to in the report as J Bongo).
As part of the transaction, B Bongo traded in his old vehicle, also a BMW X5 (registration number: DWM 730 MP) which he had bought in 2008, while J Bongo paid R30 000 cash and an additional R764,177.50 through vehicle financing from ABSA bank.
The vehicle was registered in Joel Bongo’s name, but the report notes that it was always used by the newly appointed minister of state security.
“All information, including files seized from Singwane and Partners, shows that there was not an attorney – client relationship between J Bongo and Singwane and Partners that could justify the payment. In his voluntary statement to ACTT, J Bongo is silent on this payment. From investigations, it also became apparent that, although J Bongo was the registered owner, that the beneficial owner was B Bongo, latter who is in continuous possession of the vehicle,” reads the report.
The report also notes that, even though the vehicle was registered in J Bongo’s name, whose residential address is Bryanston in the city of Johannesburg, the vehicle was registered in Nelspruit and the residential address under which it was registered is that of the minister of state security B Bongo.
The report alleges that J Bongo, claimed in an unsworn statement to ACTT, that he frequently borrowed the vehicle to his brother (B Bongo), the newly appointed minister of State Security.
“J Bongo provided the ACTT with a statement, not under oath, that he frequently borrowed the vehicle to his brother, B Bongo, and that Dhlamini paid him for services that he rendered. In addition to the travel claims that were submitted to DHS and repairs effected by BMW Eastview, I also examined the data provided by the vehicle tracking company. The vehicle tracking data shows that the vehicle was in the Nelspruit area and occasionally traveled to the Johannesburg area. In light of all this information, J Bongo’s explanation that he merely loaned the vehicle to B Bongo, is not credible and is an attempt to explain away the association with Dhlamini as well as the fact that B Bongo was the beneficial owner,” reads the report.
The report notes that Bongo continued claiming for official kilometres that he had traveled, using the details of the vehicle that he had traded-in, with registration number DWN773MP. “At least It will be noted that B Bongo submitted claims in respect of a vehicle with registration DWN7730MP. According to BMW (Northcliff), a vehicle with this registration was used as a trade-in for the purchase of the BMW X5, referred to above, and purchased by J Bongo. J Bongo took receipt of the new BMW X5 on or about 27 May 2011 with the result that the vehicle DWN730[MP] was no longer in B Bongo’s possession. The only conclusion that be arrived at is that B Bongo was submitting claims in respect of the new BMW X5 with registration FNN536MP,” reads the report.
The report shows that B Bongo may have irregularly claimed R20 338,20 between July and October 2011, using the registration details of a vehicle he had traded in two months earlier.
Similarly, the report also shows that the same modus operandi was used to buy a second vehicle, an Audi RS5 which was bought on 15 April 2011.
According to the report, Singwane and Partners paid R300 000 to Audi Sandton to purchase the vehicle, which was also in the name of J. Bongo, the minister’s younger brother.
The report notes that the beneficiary of this car as well was the minister himself, even though it was registered in his brother’s name.
“Apart from a trade-in allowance for his previous vehicle and financing from Nedbank, J Bongo was also the beneficiary of a payment of R300 000 that was paid directly by Singwane and Partners to Audi Sandton on 14 April 2011, in respect of the purchase of the Audi RS5…
“From previous investigations it also became apparent that, although J Bongo was the registered owner, that the beneficial owner was B Bongo, latter who is in continuous possession of the vehicle,” reads the report.
Another questionable transaction that the report notes, is that Singwane and Partners allegedly paid R1,5 million on 13 May 2011 and R300 000 on the 3rd December 2011 to a company owned by Sandile Nkosi, Kgalema Properties.
The law firm paid an additional R200 000 to a builder, Peter Rosner for the house, the report alleges.
Nkosi is referred to in the report as common law wife to the minister of state security, Thomas Bongani Bongo.
The investigation also found that both Bongo and Nkosi were residents of the house.
Bongo’s spokesperson, Brian Dube directed all enquiries to Bongo’s former employer, the Mpumalanga department of human settlements.
The matter you are raising is of the Department of Human Settlements and it dates some 5 or 6 years back. “Shouldn’t you think the Department in its wisdom would have commissioned some work in respect to any allegations of wrongdoing or illegal conduct? To this end you are best placed to contact the department in this regard,” said Dube in response to our enquiry.
The department of human settlements said that the only vehicle that was on the department’s system was Bongo’s previous vehicle with registration number DWN 730 MP.
“The former director – legal services, Adv Thomas Bongo used a BMW X5, 4.8 with registration number DWN 730 MP to perform official duties,” said departmental spokesperson, Freddy Ngobe.
He declined to comment on the two other vehicles.
According to the response from the department, there are no records of claims that Bongo made using the new vehicles.
The director of Singwane and Partners, Mduduzi Singwane, declined to respond to respond to allegations against people who were not part of the human settlement transaction.
“I will respond based on the initial statement given to the investigating authority. I take note that you have elected to pick on Advocate Bongo, I will however (refuse) to comment on matters that (affect) other people who were not part of the transaction in which (your) enquiry is (based). And to the extent that they would not have (site) of this response to you. I will challenge you to obtain responses from them,” he said.
Dhlamini said even though he could no longer recall the sequence of events, as the matter happened long ago, he may have issued out an instruction for the payments to Bongo’s brother.
“I was called by the SIU and they just gave me a piece of paper, they said they were investigating the issue of Emalahleni, and asked how I got involved in the deal because there was money laundering.
“I gave them a signed statement,” said Dhlamini.
He also disclosed that he had appointed Bongo’s brother to audit his company’s books.
“I recall that Bongo’s brother is an auditor, – a Chartered Accountant. He was doing my books for quite sometimes. I was owing him money. When I got the money I instructed Singwane to pay the money to Sipho’s business account.
“I must go back to my files to establish why the money was paid in the manner that it was (to the car dealership).”
“I don’t recall issuing an instruction that the money must be paid to BMW.
“I had given him (J. Bongo) some assignments to do,” said Dhlamini.
Spokesperson for the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, also known as the Hawks, Brig. Hangwani Mulaudzi said as matter of principle they do not comment on investigations.
“We are not in a position to respond on investigations,” he said.
He also said that the case numbers which the police opened in relation to the Mpumalanga dodgy land deals, in which several Mpumalanga politicians and private individuals are suspects, were not related to the land deals.
“I double checked, I double checked, it’s GBH (assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm). So go back and check with your source to give you (accurate information),” he said.
This, however, was contrary to the information supplied by a source in Mpumalanga.
“The case number you have is a fraud, theft and corruption case. The municipality of Emalahlen bought a piece of farmland Portion 82 of the farm Naauwpoort 335 JS from Mr van Tonder for the amount of R37,5 million. Upon signing the deed of sale by Mr van Tonder at the Conveyancer, he then realized that the price was enormously inflated as his sellinf price was R16,5 million including commission,” said the source on condition of anonymity.