KZN pair set for arrest over ANC R1m ‘donation’

Speaker of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature Peggy Nkonyeni is embroiled in allegations involving a R1million 'donation' paid to a businessman. Picture: Mark Wing.

Speaker of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature Peggy Nkonyeni is embroiled in allegations involving a R1million 'donation' paid to a businessman. Picture: Mark Wing.

Published Jul 10, 2011

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Police are poised to arrest KwaZulu-Natal economic development and tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu over a R1 million “donation” paid by controversial South American businessman Dr Gaston Savoi to the ANC in exchange for a R45m government tender.

Independent Newspapers can reveal that the KZN Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) confirmed warrants of arrest have been issued for Mabuyakhulu and for Speaker of the KZN legislature Peggy Nkonyeni.

And news of the imminent arrests have been met with swift calls for the pair to be suspended.

Neither would comment yesterday. Mabuyakhulu’s spokesman, Bheko Madlala, said: “We are not aware (of the warrant) and have no comment to make.”

Nkonyeni was equally curt. “You have to confirm with him (DPP head). I have no comment.”

When the arrests take place the pair will join the “three amigos” – Savoi, former KZN Treasurer and suspended Ithala Development Bank boss Sipho Shabalala and former health department boss Busi Nyembezi – in the dock.

Others facing charges are Shabalala’s wife Ntombi, Durban advocate Sandile Kuboni, as well as other health department officials and businessmen. In total, 15 people will face charges.

A final charge sheet is expected to be brought before the Pietermaritzburg High Court on August 1.

It is believed the group will face charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering, among others.

Independent Newspapers first reported in October 2009 that Shabalala was being investigated for soliciting a R1m “donation” to the ANC, linked to the awarding of a government tender for the supply of water purification plants to hospitals and clinics.

When the donation was paid, Mabuyakhulu was the ANC’s provincial treasurer and Nkonyeni KZN health MEC.

In a twist of irony, Nkonyeni has since replaced Mabuyakhulu as provincial treasurer.

Shabalala and other government officials apparently went to Brazil in 2004 at Savoi’s invitation, where they were shown products manufactured by Savoi’s Intaka company. Among these were water purification plants.

Upon his return, Shabalala apparently asked for a quote from Intaka and organised for R44.5m to be released from the poverty alleviation fund, motivating that the purchase of the plants was urgent. Normal tender processes were allegedly bypassed and Intaka given the tender.

In March 2007, Intaka was paid for the work by the government.

In the same month, it is alleged Savoi’s company paid the R1m – allegedly at Shabalala’s instruction – to the ANC through Kuboni.

The accused have appeared in court on several occasions, most recently on May 5. During that appearance, the State set itself a deadline of August 1 to hand over the completed indictment, the docket containing all witness statements and a long-awaited forensic report.

Acting DPP head advocate Simphiwe Mlotshwa confirmed yesterday that warrants had been issued for Mabuyakhulu and Nkonyeni, relating directly to the R1m payment. “I signed those warrants on Monday,” he said.

“At this stage, investigations reveal they should face two charges, of fraud and corruption. These charges have an umbilical connection to the matter involving Dr Savoi. But the investigation is ongoing and if it is found that more serious charges could be brought against them, we will do that.”

Mlotshwa said he would be meeting the investigating and prosecuting teams early next week for an update on the case.

Opposition parties yesterday called for Mabuyakhulu and Nkonyeni to be suspended.

DA leader in the KZN legislature John Steenhuisen said it was vital that Premier Zweli Mkhize act swiftly.

“With this news, his (Mkhize’s) administration is now in crisis; the legislature is in crisis. He needs to take strong, decisive action. When Mabuyakhulu is arrested, he needs to be suspended immediately to ensure that the whole Mkhize administration isn’t tarnished by this.

“When this matter came to light, we called for Nkonyeni to be removed as Speaker, and we have repeatedly called for Mabuyakhulu to be removed from the provincial cabinet. We stand by that statement,” Steenhuisen said.

“This sends out a strong message that no one is immune to prosecution. There is this perception that if you have enough money or connections, you can get away with almost anything. Such high-profile arrests will deal with that perception, that prominent people can escape justice.”

IFP MPL Bonga Mdletshe said: “We must get rid of all elements of fraud and corruption in our government. If they are found guilty, then they must go.”

ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala said: “We’ve heard about these warrants, but only as rumours. There is nothing that we received or have been told formally. Until that happens, we aren’t in a position to comment.” - Matthew Savides

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