A probe by the special investigative unit, the Hawks, into the financial affairs of Julius Malema, has allegedly uncovered prima facie evidence of wrongdoing relating to the awarding of tenders to companies with close ties to the ANC Youth League leader in his home province of Limpopo.
The Sunday Independent has learnt that it was no longer a case of “if” there was a case for Malema to answer, but a matter of “when” he was likely to be hauled before a court. Sources close to the criminal investigation into Malema said he faced cases of corruption, fraud and money laundering which mirror the cases President Jacob Zuma faced before ascending to the Union Buildings.
The Hawks were investigating, among others, the Ratanang Family Trust, named after his son, which Malema allegedly used as a conduit for bribes, a company owned by Maropeng Ramohlale, the mother of his son, and others that are run by Malema’s friends.
The Sunday Independent was informed that several of Malema’s acquaintances had approached the Hawks requesting co-operation, instead of being arrested.
“We have told them to wait, because frankly, we do not need them to prove our case against him. A decision on whether they will be charged separately later or will testify against him will be taken later,” said the source.
The source said the case against Malema relied heavily on SMSes exchanged between him and several businessmen. “You must know that businessmen do not want to spend a day in prison. Once you visit them, they tell you the whole story and produce the evidence to corroborate their story,” said the source.
The Hawks investigators have not interviewed Malema on the matter yet. On Saturday, Malema confirmed that he was not interviewed by the Hawks. “They must come and interview me. Ratanang, they will talk what? There is no problem. Ratanang has declared its taxes since inception without failure,” he said.
However, he said it was good the Hawks were investigating the matter as those who claim to have paid him money would need to come out in the open. “It is good that this went to the Hawks,” he said
In February 2010, SGL Engineering Projects, a company Malema owned with his friend Lesiba Gwangwa, won tenders worth millions of rand from municipalities across Limpopo. Gwangwa is also the chief executive officer of On Point, a company that was paid R52 million in 2009 to administer the programme management unit of the Limpopo Roads and Transport Department for a period of three years.
On Point is a sister company of SGL Engineering, which started out as Segwalo Consulting Engineers in 2002, and the Ratanang Family Trust has a stake in On Point. Malema resigned as a director of SGL Engineering last year.
Ramohlale has two companies registered under her name – Ratamaropeng Construction and Projects and Bondu Engineering Contractors.
The Hawks have two investigators probing Malema while Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has three. Madonsela’s spokesman, Oupa Segalwe, said their investigation into Malema’s business interests was ongoing.
“Up to so far,” he said, “we have collected documents, identified some of the witnesses and agreed with the Hawks on the approach. We will be getting three investigators to help expedite the case.”
The investigations into Malema started when his lavish lifestyle, expensive parties and houses came to the fore, with many questioning how he managed all these things on his youth league salary.
The Sunday Independent broke the story of his R3m house that was destroyed to make way for a bigger mansion, believed to be worth about R16m.
Hawks spokesman McIntosh Polela refused to comment on the investigation: “We are not giving updates on investigations.”
The Hawks have reportedly collected enough documents which point to money laundering, fraud and corruption involving the league leader. The officials – who spoke on condition of anonymity – said immediately after AfriForum’s complaint, the Hawks applied for a court order, requesting it to grant them the power to obtain Malema’s bank records, his cellphone accounts and the list of companies registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, be they under his name or those of his allies.
“We got SMSes. You could see from the records that there was a request for money and it then gets deposited the next day. Malema has made a lot of enemies and most of them are willing to talk.
“Some have approached the Hawks with information and the Hawks have told them to wait until they finalise their investigation,” said the official. During their investigation, the Hawks apparently found a lot of companies registered under Malema and his associates, with “big money moving from one account to another”.
“There’s huge amounts of monies amounting to millions of rand moving from one account to the other,” the official said.
In August this year, a few days after the ANC charged Malema with sowing divisions and bringing the ruling party into disrepute, the Hawks confirmed that they were probing Malema for corruption and fraud.
At the time, the Hawks said the probe was preliminary. In July, Malema said he was not engaged in illegal activities.
“Why would I form a trust to do illegal activities and put my child in that trust and my grandmother in that trust?”
Polela said afterwards the investigative unit had, from the information at their disposal, “enough to tell us that we need to do a full investigation because there’s a lot that tells us that we have reason to worry”.
He said the Hawks investigation was related to the Ratanang Family Trust and other companies linked to him.
“There are a lot of companies that are involved that we need to look into and their finances and how those finances come in and get out and what those finances are used for,” Polela said then.
In May 2008, Malema was controversially elected as the league’s president and, weeks later, the Ratanang Family Trust was registered at the Pretoria office of the Master of the High Court. - Sunday Independent