05/05/2011 ANCYL President Julius Malema during a media briefing in Pretoria. Picture: Phill Magakoe

The man at the centre of an ongoing tender fraud and corruption probe by different law enforcement agencies sat with more than R3 million in his family trust account by September 2010.

The Sunday Independent revealed on Saturday that Lesiba Cuthbert Gwangwa, suspended ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema’s closest business partner, acquired a string of properties and luxury cars worth more than R10m over the past two years.

The 33-year-old engineer is the sole director of On-Point Engineers and SGL Engineering Projects – the two companies previously or currently owned by Malema and his Ratanang Family Trust.

The assets were registered under his Gwangwa Family Trust or his companies, including Gwama Properties (Pty) Ltd and Mminathoko Infrastructure CC, according to bank statements and company and deeds office records.

They included houses, mansions and a farm in areas such as Polokwane, Tzaneen and Cape Town.

Gwangwa, his family and companies acquired properties valued at between R367 000 and R3.9m.

He also signed a R2.5m purchase offer for the Ismini Office Park in Polokwane, according to a deed of sale signed between him and the owner, the Dimitri Family Trust.

Gwangwa’s collection of toys included a Mercedes Benz Viano 3.5V6 worth R700 000, which he bought last January.

The millionaire is known for loving life’s finer things.

Local carpets were apparently not good enough for Gwangwa last year, when he ordered cashmere carpets from Mauritius to the tune of R60 000.

Limpopo Premier Mathale is said to have introduced Gwangwa to Malema in 2005, when he was still the provincial ANC secretary.

At the time, Gwangwa was working with Mathale’s then-business associate and housing developer, Matome Sathekge.

The relationship between Malema and Gwangwa saw Malema becoming a director of SGL in 2009.

On-Point and SGL have scored more than R400m worth of known Limpopo municipal tenders since 2007, sometimes under questionable circumstances.

Gwangwa has effectively been in charge of the provincial roads tenders worth over R3.6 billion since 2009. This was through a R52m project management unit (PMU) contract awarded to On-Point by the provincial Roads and Transport Department, to “manage, administer, evaluate, adjudicate and implement” its infrastructure plan for a period of three years.

The company got the lucrative contract six months after it was registered. Gwangwa did not respond to a list of detailed questions sent through his lawyer and spokesman, Mpoyana Ledwaba.

Revelations of Gwangwa’s wealth came as Premier Cassel Mathale and his lieutenants were summoned to Luthuli House two weeks ago to explain the R2bn financial rot in Limpopo, among other pressing issues, as well as the disputed provincial ANC election which he is alleged to have stolen.

The meeting, coupled with the subsequent confirmation of Malema’s suspension from the ruling party for a period to be determined by the ANC national disciplinary appeals committee (NDAC), led to talks in the ruling party and tripartite alliance circles that Mathale might be recalled as premier.

The elite investigating unit, the Hawks, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and Sars are probing alleged tender irregularities involving On-Point and others.

The investigation implicates most of Malema’s allies – including Mathale and Gwangwa.

It is part of a wide probe into tender irregularities, fraud and corruption in the province.

The Sunday Independent learnt this week that some of the implicated businessmen went to ground after Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told them to provide supporting documents to justify payments for services rendered.

The Hawks and Sars are said to have uncovered incriminating evidence that could nail a number of top politicians and businessmen in Limpopo.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) has moved in, at the request of law-enforcement agencies, to help find more evidence that could lead investigators to the doors of those who looted Limpopo.

The case against Malema and his allies could be finalised within a “couple” of months, according to a law-enforcement agency source.

“They (implicated businessmen) have been asked to provide proof on how they got these tenders and most of them cannot provide that.

“So the SIU is now looking into that. Most of them got these tenders without even getting appointment letters. It was just a gentlemen’s agreement,” revealed the source.

The source said the Hawks were “waiting in the wings”.

“However, the information gleaned by the SIU cannot be used in a court of law by the Hawks. It can only be used as a pointer for the Hawks to know where to look.”

The government’s intervention in Limpopo, which saw five key departments put under administration, came after the fraudulent awarding of tenders and the inflation of prices for goods pushed the province to the brink.

The Sunday Independent was previously told that most of the squandered taxpayers’ money – dished out through government tenders – had been used by associates of Mathale and Malema to buy luxury properties, fill their family trust accounts and for partying.

Madonsela is investigating allegations that Gwangwa got the PMU tender irregularly, and that On-Point subsequently issued tenders to contractors without following the law and Treasury regulations.

She has since ordered the Roads Department to suspend On-Point’s participation in the tender awarding processes pending the finalisation of her investigation.

Kgalalelo Masibi, Madonsela’s spokeswoman, said that “the investigation is at an advanced stage but still has a long way to go. A provisional report should be available by the end of February if everything goes according to plan”.

Madonsela’s probe followed reports that Gwangwa had forced contractors to sign secret “back-to-back” agreements, which entitled the company to share the proceeds of the tenders it awarded or be entitled to between 50 and 90 percent of the total value of the profit of the contracts it issued through the PMU.

Until Mathale took over as premier, roads PMU had been done internally by departmental employees.

Political analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni believed President Jacob Zuma was unlikely to sack Mathale, unless ongoing tender fraud probes produced evidence of wrongdoing on his part.

Fikeni said although Limpopo under Mathale’s leadership had become a springboard of a group that would be challenging the current ANC leadership at the ANC’s national elective conference in Mangaung later this year, Zuma was more likely to keep a close eye on the Limpopo ANC chair’s pronouncements to see if he was not defying the intervention and obstructing the probe, than fire him.

“The leadership at Luthuli will be cautious of being seen as removing Mathale at any point in time during this intervention.

“They would rather have the investigation by all institutions being the ones that expose any possible link between the leadership in Limpopo and the current irregularities. In that manner, it would be seen as a technical administrative process that deals with governance and corruption issues without being seen as politically manoeuvred,” said Fikeni.

Economic analyst Mandla Maleka said the Limpopo financial crisis would have far-reaching implications for the average taxpayer and investor confidence if not arrested immediately.

“If anything untoward happens in Limpopo, where we spend more than what we have budgeted for as a country, then invariably it means we are insincere to our bond holders and our creditors; we are not prudent in managing part of our fiscal position,” Maleka said.

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