Inside the nepotism and patronage network at the PIC
Sibusisiwe Zulu, a board member at the Public Investment Corporation, this week has been revealed by a whistleblower to be the main figure at the centre of an intricate nepotism and patronage network at the institution where up to R2 billion of the organisation's funds are distributed to potential investees based on a 50% kickback of the original transaction fee as payment for facilitating deals.
The network, according to the whistle-blower consists of two government ministers, an acting CEO at the PIC and Zulu, who is a board member along with a Black Economic Empowerment beneficiary.
The extent of the rot in the institution has got so bad that the board has since announced an immediate probe into some of the board members who are alleged to be beneficiaries of the kickback scheme where one businessman with links to the board has benefited to the tune of a whopping R6 billion.
The situation got so bad at the PIC that its acting CEO, Matshepo More, Zulu and Chairman of the Board and Deputy Finance Minister Mondli Gungubele have been asked to recuse themselves following a special meeting held earlier this week addressing some of the damning allegations levelled against them.
Zulu is widely regarded to be at the centre of the patronage and nepotism network where she is accused of approaching businesses seeking PIC funding for a 50% kick back on a potential transaction or a 40% alternative share option in whichever enterprise that the PIC would invest in.
According to the whistle-blower: “Since the appointment of the acting CEO, it has become common knowledge in the transaction market that if you want any deal to be considered by the PIC you need to seek a meeting with Ms Zulu’s boyfriend who will then talk to both Ms More and the Deputy Minister to get the go-ahead,” said the whistle-blower.
Information from the whistle-blower alleges that if one agrees to their terms of sharing 50% of the transactional fees and 40% shares in the proposed transaction which will be distributed to Gungubele, More and Zulu through selected proxies, then your deal will be approved with no hassles.
A damning email doing the rounds this week, addressed to Tito Mboweni, the Minister of Finance from a whistle-blower only known as “James Noko” directly implicates Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize, Gungubele, Zulu, More and businessman Lawrence Mulaudzi as key figures of a nepotism and patronage network.
Mkhize and Zulu are accused of sharing a R40 million payment by the whistle-blower after Mulaudzi was allegedly paid R100 million transactional fee for facilitating a BEE deal with TOTAL.
A history of alleged corruption
Zulu is no stranger to controversy as she still has a corruption report that points to her having flouted procedures and irregularly granted gambling licenses during her tenure at the KZN gambling board where she served as chair.
The damning report at the KZN Gambling was allegedly shut down and suppressed and Mkhize who also used his influence to see Zulu elevated to the mantle of PIC Board member where she has access to billions of rands worth of funds. Zulu is also said to be reporting directly to him since her appointed as a member of the board of the PIC.
Zulu is also an acting judge at the KZN High Court and questions have been raised by PIC insiders as to how an acting judge could also serve as a member of the board as that would result in a potential conflict of interest given that the PIC was a financial services institution.
Also, businessman Lawrence Mulaudzi is alleged by the whistle-blower to be romantically linked to Zulu and are said to be live in partners with properties around Gauteng and KZN. Due to the allegation that Zulu is Mulaudzi’s live-in partner, his close proximity to the PIC board member has allegedly seen him benefit from transactions to the tune of R6 billion.
“These include the controversial TOTAL deal where Mr Lawrence Mulaudzi was paid a R100 million for facilitation of which R40m was paid to Sibusisiwe and her uncle, former TG Zweli Mkhize. The proceeds of this deal was the start of Ms Zulu’s lavish lifestyle where she splurged her ill-gotten PIC money on a multi-million rand mansion in the coastal Umhlanga Ridge suburb in Durban, including luxury vehicles,” explains the whistle-blower.
Bantu Holomisa, the leader of the United Democratic Movement alleges that the R100 million that was paid to Mulaudzi was a controversial facilitation fee. At the time of the deal, the PIC board approved R1.7 billion funding for the TOTAL transaction yet the final payment made was R1.8 billion,” explains Holomisa.
This then raised questions as to why there was an addition R100 million which formed the basis of the current PIC Inquiry. These revelations are likely going to result in the summons ad subpoena of More, Zulu and Mulaudzi to explain all the irregular transactions that are currently occurring under their tenure, adds Holomisa.
The whistle-blower further alleges that Zulu uses Mulaudzi as a proxy to benefit from transactions that she approves in the committees that she chairs where she has the power to approve up to R2 billion without the board’s consent.
Through the scheme and its patronage network she has benefited over R 600 million in shareholdings and well over R100 million in fees which she uses to finance her lavish lifestyle, according to the whistle-blower.
An opulent lifestyle
Information from the whistleblowers further relays how Zulu is frequently seen being driven around Johannesburg in Mulaudzi’s Mercedes Benz Maybach which costs in the region R5 million.
She is also alleged to have recently acquired a R4 million top of the range Land Rover after the PIC approved a multibillion-rand deal for Mulaudzi last year, which she uses as her personal car when she is visiting their multi-million rand love nest home in Morningside, Sandton, where she spends the majority of her time.
The whistleblower further states that she recently splurged on other luxury items such as a Porsche Panamera and another Range Rover Sport which are parked at her mansion in Umhlanga.
Zulu, who often boasts about her close proximity to Gungubele, is also accused by staff of being part of a cabal run by Gungubele, herself and the acting CEO to get rid of all executives who served under former PIC CEO Dan Matjila in favour of their own candidates.
Holomisa, who was instrumental in exposing the potential corruption at the PIC said the departure of Matjila and the suspension of some members of the board within the PIC has opened up a can of worms leading to accusations and counter-accusations.
“It’s clear that the PIC and its staff members were aware of the shenanigans and depending on which camp they were in, there were those who were part of shielding and those who were fighting corruption from within. This accusation and counter-accusation are going to help the commission to get to the bottom of allegations which have been coming out of PIC for three years,” he said.
Affected parties respond
In a response to media queries, Zulu and Mkhize have since downplayed allegations levelled against them calling for a full investigation to take place. Responding to questions, Zulu said remained undeterred that her name would be cleared:
“The decision of the PIC board to conduct an independent investigation is most welcome. When I became aware of these spurious allegations of impropriety and irregularity against me, I immediately requested the board to conduct an independent investigation. I am pleased that the decision of the board is in line with my request. It is in my professional interest that this matter is dealt with expeditiously as these allegations could negatively impact on my professional reputation. As a young black female professional, I am proud of the work that I have achieved in my various professional capacities. I have every intention to continue to make a contribution and impact.”
Mkhize said he noted some reports relating to allegations being made in relation to his relationship with Zulu.
In a response, Mkhize reiterated that Zulu is an independent professional whose credentials spoke for themselves.
“It would be unfair to respond on her behalf. Any allegations that insinuate that she has succeeded as a young black professional through any political influence is disingenuous and mischievous. The President has instituted a commission of inquiry into alleged impropriety at the PIC and anyone with information should take it to the Commission,” said Mkhize.
In a statement via the National Treasury website Wednesday, Gungubele said: “I have noted the decision by my fellow board members to investigate the allegations against me contained in an email circulated this week by a whistle-blower. I welcome the opportunity to clear this matter once and for all. However, I am confident that I have done nothing wrong.”
Mulaudzi did not respond to calls and text messages.
A published statement from the PIC reads: "Having received an e-mail from an anonymous whistle-blower, James Noko, regarding allegations of impropriety that implicate two Non-Executive Directors of the PIC Board and the Acting Chief Executive Officer, the Board held a special Board meeting on Tuesday evening, 29 January 2019, given the seriousness of the matter.
"Following the recusal, of the three affected Board members, the Board meeting was chaired by the Deputy Chairman, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi. At the meeting, it was resolved to immediately conduct a forensic investigation into these allegations. The Board will engage the services of an experienced Senior Counsel to assist the Board with the said investigation."
* Ayanda Mdluli heads Independent Media's investigative unit.