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The noose is tightening around the necks of people who looted the Lottery funds. One such corruption-tainted project is at at Maila village. Here more than R27 million was paid to a hi-jacked NPO to build an old age home. The project has since been abandoned.

Noose tightens around Lotto looters

 

The noose is tightening around the people alleged to have been involved in the systematic looting of the National Lottery Commission (NLC) as investigations into the misappropriation of at least R1.4-million in grant funding gathers steam.

In the latest move, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was granted preservation orders freezing various assets of people implicated in the fraud. Several of them are from the Vhembe area.

The alleged fraud was being investigated by the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) and the Hawks, and the AFU has now joined in.

Nine properties, including luxury houses and a farm, were frozen after a secret application by the NPA was granted. The application was heard by Gauteng Division Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba in his chambers last Friday morning. 

Two Ocean Basket franchises and a farm, belonging to dodgy Pretoria lawyer Lesley Ramulifho, and a top-of-the-range BMW 420i, belonging to the NLC’s former chief operating officer (COO), Phillemon Letwaba, were also included in the order.

In total, the assets that were frozen were valued at over R25 million. They include the luxury three-storey home of the actress, Terry Pheto, best known for her roles in the movie Tsotsi and the soapie The Bold and the Beautiful. The house was allegedly built using R3 million of lottery grant money meant for an “initiation programme”.

Vhembe also features

Two Louis Trichardt residents also featured prominently in last week’s seizures of property. Collins Tshisimba and his wife, Fulufhelo Promise Kharivhe, had two townhouses in Gauteng frozen by the court. Both have been described by the SIU as kingpins in the looting of grant funding. A company of which Kharivhe is the sole director, Thwala Front, was allegedly used to launder millions in looted Lottery grants. Thwala Front has its registered address as 64 Anderson Street, Louis Trichardt.

Collin Tshisimba is a member of three non-profit organisations – Make Me Movement, Lethabong Old Age and Mbidzo Development Program – which received a combined total of R53 million in Lottery funding. 

Independent investigators appointed by the NLC to investigate allegations of corruption found that of the R26,8 million given to the Lethabong old-age home in Kuruman in the Northern Cape, only R10,6 million was spent on the facility. The home is still unfinished.

Tshisimba also featured prominently in a multi-million-rand Lottery project to rebuild Vhafamadi School in Malamulele after it was destroyed during protests in 2016. A Limpopo-based NPO - Simba Community Development Foundation - received R28,3 million to rebuild the school, but a large chunk of the money found its way to individuals, including family and entities linked to former COO Letwaba.

After the money was received by Simba, R4 million was transferred to Upbrand Properties, a company linked to Letwaba, according to a statement issued by the SIU in September this year. Upbrand, in turn, paid almost R4 million to attorneys handling the purchase of a luxury home on a golf estate in North West for former NLC commissioner Thabang Mampane. The home was among the properties frozen by the court.

Online publication GroundUp reported that Mbidzo Development Programme had received R8 million in funding from the NLC between 2014/15 and 2016/17 for undisclosed projects. On 28 March 2018, a sum of R2 million was paid out of the NPO’s account into the bond account of Advocate Willie Huma, to help pay for his luxury Waterkloof home. At the time, Huma was an NLC board member. A further R500 000 was paid into Huma’s bond account on 14 May 2018.

A local laundromat?

Fulufhelo Promise Kharivhe was arrested and charged with corruption early in 2021. She appeared in the Palm Ridge Commercial Crime Court, along with five other suspects, in connection with a R1.57 million grant awarded to a non-profit organisation, The Message. Of this amount, R200 000 was paid into Thwala Front’s bank account.

In August this year, only one of the accused, Christopher Tshivule (46), was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment for fraud. Charges against the other accused were all dropped, apparently after they had made representations to the NPA. Tshivule is from the Vhembe region and the bank account used to syphon off the funds was opened in Louis Trichardt.

Tshivule pleaded guilty and said that he had misrepresented himself as the chairperson of The Message. He said that he had applied for funding of R3 million for a “traditional arts festival”. On 8 October 2018, the NLC paid over R1,575 million into the account of which he, his niece Mukondeleli Tshivule (27) and Thomas Ndadza (49) were all signatories.

Kharivhe’s company, Thwala Front, was allegedly used on more than one occasion to “launder” Lottery funds. In April 2018, Thwala received funds from another non-profit organisation and then paid R1.9 million into the bond account for Huma’s Waterkloof house.

Luxury mansions and hijacked NPOs

On 15 June this year, a preservation order was granted by Special Tribunal Judge Soma Naidoo regarding the multi-million-rand luxury home and furniture of former NLC board chairman Alfred Nevhutanda. An order was also granted against Vhutanda Investments, a private company that owns the property. Nevhutanda is the sole director of the company, according to official company records, 

At the time that the home, which is set on its own, private two-hectare estate in a suburb of Pretoria, was purchased, Nevhutanda was the long-time chairperson of the NLC board. The judge also instructed the SIU to initiate civil proceedings against Nevhutanda and Vhutanda “for the disgorgement of secret profits improperly earned” during Nevhutanda’s tenure as the NLC board’s chairman.

Nevhutanda is no stranger to Vhembe, having worked in the area for many years as lecturer at the Makhado College of Education. He served as the NLC board’s chairperson for a period of 11 years until 2020, and he is a former ANC Limpopo chairperson.

He received a PhD in education from Unisa in 2000 and a doctorate in music in 2005. He also claims a controversial professorship, awarded to him by the dodgy International Eco-energy Academy of Azerbaijan and refers to himself as “Professor” Alfred Nevhutanda.

Another NPO named in the preservation order is Mushumo Ushavha Zwanda, which received R27.4 million to build an old-age home at Maila village, 30 km southeast of Louis Trichardt.

In March this year, SIU head Advocate Andy Mothibi told Parliament’s Trade, Industry and Competition Portfolio Committee that the NPO had been hijacked. Mothibi did not mention Mushumo Ushavha Zwanda by name when he told MPs that, shortly after the first tranche of R20 million had been paid into the NPO’s bank account, R4 million had been transferred to attorneys handling a property transaction for a former NLC board member.

The former board member was Alfred Nevhutanda, and the money was allegedly used to help pay for his lavish R27-million mansion in Annlin, in Pretoria.

Public Auction

The next step, now that assets have been frozen, will be to apply for a forfeiture order, NPA spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana said in a media statement last week after the latest preservation orders were granted. “Once a forfeiture order is granted, the properties will be sold at public auction, and proceeds returned to the NLC.”

Mahanjana said investigations had revealed that Lottery grants had been used to buy luxury properties for the benefit of employees of the NLC and members of the non-profit organisations or their family members and friends. In many of the cases, properties were registered in the names of the entities and not in the names of private individuals, she said.

“Some entities masqueraded as construction companies but did not do construction (or very little) and were effectively used as money-laundering vehicles to receive kickbacks from non-profit organisations who received grants from the NLC,” she said.

GroundUp reported earlier this week that investigations into further matters involving the abuse of Lottery funds are nearing completion and more applications to freeze assets will be brought before the courts soon.

GroundUp also quoted sources as saying that the SIU had “made criminal referrals” to the NPA involving Letwaba, Ramulifho, Mampane, Nevhutanda, former board member William Huma, and Mashudu Shandukani, who is included in last Friday’s order, and his wife, Pretty. Shandukani’s company was the main contractor for construction of Vhafamadi School, on a Lottery-funded project to build a school in Limpopo, where millions of rands were misappropriated.

Where to from here?

During a second report back on the SIU’s investigations, Mothibi told Parliament in  September that they were investigating more than R1.4-billion in dodgy Lottery grants. The first phase of the SIU’s investigation was complete and involved 12 grants, valued at R279.7 million, which were “corruptly syphoned out of the NLC with the assistance of [former NLC] Executive and Board members”. 

The second phase, which is currently underway, involves 17 matters, and the SIU had identified R246.6 million in grants for investigation, Mothibi told MPs. The report on this phase of the investigation is due in March 2023. The third phase, which will begin in April next year, will probe grants valued at R905.9 million, bringing the total of grants under investigation to R1.4 billion. If further information on corrupt grants were received, these would also be investigated, Mothibi said.

 

 

Date:11 November 2022

By: Anton van Zyl

Anton van Zyl has been with the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror since 1990. He graduated from the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and obtained a BA Communications degree. He is a founder member of the Association of Independent Publishers.

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