Johannesburg - Telkom chief executive Sipho Maseko is at the centre of an investigation into a car licence cloning scandal.
The man who earns nearly R1 million a month stands accused of running up about R30 000 in traffic fines - to be paid by another driver.
He is also accused of getting City of Johannesburg manager Trevor Fowler to call off the city’s metro police department when officers went to his house in Houghton to check on the licence plates, but Maseko wouldn’t allow them in.
It was a chance in a million meeting on a Pretoria freeway that led to businessman Mabena Motshoane driving behind a vehicle using his licence plates.
Motshoane had become used to checking out every black Range Rover he came across because, over the past few months, he had received a number of traffic fines, adding up to about R30 000, for offences allegedly involving his car.
The car, also a black Range Rover, had been parked at a reputable motor workshop for several months while parts were imported from overseas.
Motshoane spent days at the JMPD offices opening a case with the number plates investigative unit and had also opened a fraud case at Booysens police station, with little success, as officers appeared unwilling to help him.
Motshoane became concerned that his unpaid “fines” would become a liability if he was ever stopped at a roadblock. He was also concerned that the car using his plates could be involved in crime, and that he would ultimately be held responsible.
His e-toll bills were also mounting.
At first he thought the mechanics in the workshop were joyriding in his car, but he got an affidavit from the owner stating the vehicle had not been driven since he took it in.
So when he saw a black Range Rover with the TVL 414 GP plates, he gave chase and stopped the driver – only to find that it was someone he knew, Maseko.
“I asked him why he was driving around with my number plates, and he gave me a vague answer that his old black Range Rover had that number plate and he had personalised it to his own name,” he said.
Motshoane later discovered his car had previously been owned by Maseko.
JMPD officers then phoned Maseko, who said TVL 414 GP were his number plates and there was nothing they could do to him and slammed down the phone. The Star has seen sworn affidavits by the officer who phoned him.
After much persistence by Motshoane, the JMPD sent officers to Maseko’s Houghton home, but they were refused permission to inspect the vehicle. Eventually, they were instructed to leave after being told that Fowler had intervened.
An officer called again later and asked Maseko if he could inspect the vehicle. Maseko agreed to take the car to Martindale, the JMPD headquarters, a few days later.
When he did, the vehicle now had the plates 414 TVL GP - the same numbers and letters, but reversed.
The Star has seen recent fines, photographs and video footage of Maseko driving the car with the plates TVL 414 GP in several places up until last week. There are also e-toll accounts proving that vehicle was on the roads until recently.
Motshoane said: “I don’t want to get involved with other issues. People in high places have been calling me and asking me to drop this, but I can’t.
“It is affecting my life and my ability to sell the car and to get on with my life. The JMPD is not assisting me and is offering no solution as to how they can help me.”
“I believe there is a cover-up somewhere and I don’t know what to do.”
Maseko said he had personalised the number plates 414 TVL GP for his new Range Rover, which he purchased in 2013.
When asked why he would want to use old number plates on a new vehicle, Maseko said the letters TVL stood for Transvaal and he felt nostalgic about it.
He said when the JMPD arrived at his house, he had no idea why or what he was accused of having done.
“I asked for a charge sheet or complaint, but they were not able to give me one. I was scared and nervous and the only person I could think of was Trevor Fowler,” he said.
“All Mr Fowler did was to refer me to someone in the JMPD who could assist me.”
Maseko said the car was not on the property when the JMPD officers arrived. It was parked on a farm which he was buying and he told them he would present it once it was returned to him.
“I was not trying to hide anything. I had meetings and family commitments, so it took me a few days to get to them.
“I don’t know why Motshoane did not just approach me and we could have sorted this out amicably. I am an honest, tax-paying citizen. I am not cavalier about thing like this,” he said.
The JMPD did not respond to a request for comment.
The City of Johannesburg, however, said Fowler denied he instructed JMPD officers to leave Maseko’s premises.
City spokesman Nthatisi Modigoane said: “The city manager received a complaint from Sipho Maseko about the conduct of JMPD officials, in pursuance of a complaint received from a member of the public who alleges that he is driving a car that is improperly registered.
“The city manager referred the complaint on the conduct of JMPD officials to Mr Hlula Msimang, the city’s head of department for public safety and did not instruct them to leave the premises or stop the investigation.
“Mr Motshoane was advised by the chief of police, Mr Zwelibanzi Nyanda, on how to proceed. The matter is also under investigation,” Modigoane said.