Deputy minister pays back stolen cash to ANC ‘donor’

Deputy Minister Bernice Swarts.

Deputy Minister Bernice Swarts.

Published May 23, 2024


Embattled Public Works and Infrastructure Deputy Minister, Bernice Swarts, has finally paid the R500 000 debt she had allegedly swindled from an ANC donor in exchange for the businessman to drop criminal charges against her.

This comes after ‘The Star’ last month reported that businessman Tuwani Mulaudzi had accused Swarts of tricking and defrauding him into paying R500 000 into her personal bank account purported to be going into the governing ANC coffers as a donation for their election campaign back in 2014.

‘The Star’ believes the two parties came to a decision to settle out of court after a “fixer” known to ‘The Star’ facilitated the deal.

Mulaudzi had initially opened a case of theft and fraud with case number 398/9/2013 at the Sunnyside police station after he realised that the money he had donated was sent to Swarts’ personal bank account.

Even though Swarts had repeatedly denied the allegations, ‘The Star’ had seen bank records proving that Mulaudzi had deposited the money into Swarts’ account in 2013, before she was MP, which he thought was an ANC account,

That money, meant to go towards the governing party’s 2014 Tshwane region elections campaign, never reached the ANC.

However, early last week it came to light, through reports, that Swarts had paid back the money to Mulaudzi in exchange for him to withdraw the charges he had instituted against her.

In court papers that ‘The Star’ had access to, dated April 26, Mulaudzi signed a case withdrawal letter against the minister.

The letter read in part: “Without prejudice statement on the occasion of withdrawal of charges: Sunnyside CAS 398/09/2013. I, Tuwani Matthews Mulaudzi hereby withdraw the criminal charges against Bernice Swarts following an amicable out-of-court settlement of the matter.

“I, therefore, will not be proceeding and/or pursuing the matter any further. Done and signed at Pretoria on the 26th April 2024.”

However, in a twist of events, according to reports from a Sunday newspaper, the money that was paid to Mulaudzi came from a service provider company linked to Swarts’ department. She had allegedly volunteered to pay back the money to Mulaudzi.

The company name is known to ‘The Star’, but cannot be revealed at this stage to avoid reprisals for the company.

Swarts avoided questions sent on by two different phones on the May 15 by ‘The Star’ as she had blocked the other number.

Her phone rang unanswered, while the same questions were sent to her legal representatives, MPM Attorneys, on the same day.

Only her legal representatives responded, referring the questions to the minister.

The response from MPM Attorneys read: “Our office has received your email and the contents thereof. We have not received instructions on the above inquiry. Kindly communicate with the Deputy Minister.”

Some of the questions that Swarts failed to answer included whether she was aware that there were new allegations that she had paid the money owed to Mulaudzi through a service provider linked to her department?

Other questions were whether the minister was aware the charges against her were dropped? And if she knew about the middle man who facilitated the settlement between Mulaudzi and herself?

According to the City Press dated May 12, Swarts denied she had sent anyone to pay her debt to Mulaudzi. She apparently said she had not met Mulaudzi or taken any money from him.

Prior to ‘The Star’ report, dated April 18, on the deputy minister being accused of swindling money from Mulaudzi, she had electronically handed court papers to ‘The Star’ after she had received a media inquiry from the publication.

She was seeking to interdict the paper from publishing the story, but withdrew her application on the eve of the matter serving before the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg.

This was seen as an attempt to gag the media. However, the court ordered her to pay legal representatives of both parties.

Swarts, who was appointed deputy minister after the March 2023 Cabinet reshuffle by President Cyril Ramaphosa, is a senior official of the ANC and is number 18 on the party’s election candidate list, paving her way to the National Assembly after the May 29 elections if the ANC get the votes.

Pretoria News

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