The Chronicles of Grand Azania, Part One: How a slush fund paid for Floyd Shivambu’s wedding

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy president Floyd Shivambu during a media briefing on allegations that EFF and Shivambu benefited from the VBS bank looting on October 16, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The EFF has exonerated Shivambu from any wrongdoing in the VBS Mutual Bank scandal that allegedly involves his brother Brian Shivambu. (Photo by Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla)

Floyd Shivambu’s slush fund Grand Azania paid over half a million rand for his wedding celebrations in April 2017. The company, legally owned by his brother Brian, received R6.16-million in loot from VBS Mutual Bank and R8.74-million in dodgy cash from at least 15 additional sources. Scorpio’s investigation shines a spotlight on how Shivambu solicits and then directs dodgy cash towards a front company he ultimately controls and benefits from.

Heita… Please don’t forget to activate that intervention. Am in great need.”

Floyd Shivambu sent this distress flare of a message to businessman Lawrence Mulaudzi in a WhatsApp message on 27 March 2017.

The message is one of a series of cellphone discussions between Shivambu and Mulaudzi, who has been probed by the Mpati Commission investigating wrongdoing at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).

The type of “intervention” Shivambu appealed for was clear: He followed up his plea with the FNB account details of his slush fund Grand Azania (Pty) Ltd.

Before the end of 2017, Mulaudzi deposited R500,000 worth in “interventions” to Grand Azania.

The sequence of events following Shivambu’s “great need” is to date the clearest case study of how he solicits possibly illegal cash which he then personally directs towards front companies to be used in support of his lifestyle. This appears to be a prime example of money laundering. In return for these “interventions”, the evidence suggests that Shivambu used his political influence to bring profitable deals to Mulaudzi.

Scorpio’s 11-month investigation into the extracurricular activities of EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu was triggered by the R2-billion robbery of VBS Mutual Bank. A web of patronage, set up to supplement Shivambu’s income through supporting his lifestyle and political aspirations, surfaced piece by piece over months as an increasing number of disenchanted sources came forward. Our findings in this article focus only on his wedding, and are supported by three sets of bank statements, private cellphone messages and emails between Shivambu and his benefactors, as well as key documents and sources.

Shivambu and Mulaudzi deny all wrongdoing.

Floyd’s ‘great need’

The “great need” becomes clear upon the comparison of Shivambu’s messages to Mulaudzi with the Grand Azania bank statements: There was only R745.41 left in the Grand Azania bank account when he fired off the distress signal to Mulaudzi. By 27 March 2017, Grand Azania had already paid R100,000 marked as “Fs Wedding” to events company Be-Sure Events Solutions. His wedding to Siphesihle Pezi was a month away and his slush fund was empty.

So Shivambu kept on pushing Mulaudzi. Between 27 and 29 March 2017, he sent multiple messages emphasising his “great need”. In one of the messages, Mulaudzi placated Shivambu, saying:

“Evening DP, I sent instruction to process out standing matter…” and later “DP, instruction was sent. Let’s give them some few hours.”

On the afternoon of 29 March 2017, a R200,000 payment from Mulaudzi indeed reflected in the Grand Azania bank statements.

Nyiko Floyd Shivambu’s “big need” is evident when comparing his slush fund Grand Azania’s bank statements with his messages to Lawrence Mulaudzi. After paying R100,000 for his wedding, there is only R745,41 left in the Grand Azania account. By 29 March 2017 R200,000 from Mulaudzi reflects in his bank statements. Shivambu has consistently denied that he had any knowledge of or derived any benefit from Grand Azania, yet variations of his name appear around 80 times in the bank statements.

A few days later, on 10 April 2017, Mulaudzi was rewarded with an SMS invitation to the Shivambu wedding. It read:

Greetings, You (+ partner) are cordially invited to a traditional event yo AMUKELA MAOTI wa ka SHIVAMBU. The event will happen as follows: Date: Saturday, 29 April 2017. Time: 11H00. Venue: Ka Shivambu, Mahonisi Village, Malamulele (Limpopo Province). Please RSVP via Text messages so that we make necessary arrangements. Please dress comfortably. Please note that this invitation is not transferable and should be kept private. Regards, NFS.” (Shivambu’s names are Nyiko Floyd.)

While Shivambu’s great cash flow need was alleviated by Mulaudzi’s R200,000 on 29 March 2017, Grand Azania’s account was further fattened by another R190,000 untraceable cash deposit effected in Sandton on 10 April 2017 as well as a R300,000 deposit on 2 March 2017 from a second Shivambu benefactor. [Read more about this second benefactor in Daily Maverick soon]

An untraceable cash deposit reflects in Grand Azania’s bank statements on 10 April 2017. This, along with the money deposited by Lawrence Mulaudzi and a second benefactor, alleviates Nyiko Floyd Shivambu’s cash flow problem. On 18 April Grand Azania pays R80,000 to Be Sure Events for his wedding. This is followed by R18,450 to the photographer from Thohoyandou two days later.

Over the weekend of 29 April 2017, Shivambu wed Pezi in a traditional ceremony that put his slush fund back by at least R570,000. Guests to the affair included EFF leaders Julius Malema, Dali Mpofu, Godrich Gardee and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi as well as Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola, Deputy Minister of Finance David Masondo and Vhavenda King Mphephu Ramabulana. Shivambu’s master of ceremonies was Given Mkhari, owner of PowerFM.

(Side note: Ramabulana and his “adviser”, attorney Paul Makhavhu, were fingered as two of the chief looters of VBS Mutual bank. They received at least R30.4-million for lending the support and influence of the royal family to VBS and Vele, advocate Terry Motau and Werksmans found. Makhavhu later described the receipt of these payments to Motau as “shameful”, agreeing there was no lawful cause for the VBS payments to them.)

Using his benefactors’ money, Shivambu’s slush fund Grand Azania made the following payments between 24 March and 5 May 2017:

About R50,000 to the photographer from Thohoyandou, R207,000 to Be-Sure Events Solutions and more than R36,000 for accommodation in the Malamulele area. These payments include: “Video and Photograph Floyd Wedding”, “Shivambu Wedding”, “Benny Mayengani Shivambu”, “Fs Wedding” and “Photography Floyd Wedding”. The Grand Azania bank card also paid R15,454.36 at Mopani Spar, R13,923 at Shoprite Malamulele and withdrew R14,000 at ATMs in the area between 26 April and 2 May 2017.

Entertainment at the wedding added about R80,000 to the bill, which included fees to popular local artists Prince Rhangani (R16,000), Benny Mayengani (R30,000) and Worship House (R22,500).

It was a roaring wedding party, funded by Shivambu’s benefactors through Grand Azania, a company that he swore had nothing to do with him.

A day after the wedding, on the evening of 30 April, Shivambu cleared up any doubt about what Mulaudzi’s “intervention” was all about.

Thank you very much for the assistance towards the success of the wedding,” Shivambu told Mulaudzi in another cellphone message. “We had a very fulfilling event to welcome Makoti (new bride – Ed) wa ka Shivambu and all who partook are very happy and satisfied. I really appreciate.”

He attached two photos of himself and Pezi taken on the day of their wedding.

Mulaudzi replied, saying: “You are welcome my brother. Have good time together. It was so beautiful.”

Bank statements show that Mulaudzi paid another R300,000 in three tranches to Grand Azania between November 2016 and September 2017, totalling his “interventions” at R500,000 for this period. Shivambu did not declare any of the deposits to Parliament.

So what did Shivambu do to receive these gifts from Mulaudzi? Another series of cellphone messages suggests a long-standing working relationship between the two, eloquently explained by amaBhungane’s Susan Comrie.

Worth repeating is, however, how in January 2017 he sends this message to Mulaudzi: “How are you? I was able to talk to [the chairman of a JSE-listed company] and he’s committed to talk when he returns from Davos on the 22nd of January. You must remind me of what we have to talk about.”

Mulaudzi replied with: “Excellent”.

So, Grand Azania. Whose is it?

Scorpio has analysed about 1,000 transactions effected into and out of the FNB account of Grand Azania between 2016 and 2018. Floyd Shivambu’s fingerprints are all over the bank statements:

  • His identification number and variations of his name appear about 80 times in the bank statements. These variations include “Fs Shivambu”, “Nyiko” and “Floyd”.
  • Variations of Brian Shivambu’s name only appear 13 times, despite him being the ostensible “owner” of the account.
  • The names of Shivambu’s daughter, his wife, as well as the names of his brothers and parents further appear in the bank statements as beneficiaries of his slush fund.

In the second part of this series, Scorpio will also detail how the Grand Azania bank card followed Shivambu around southern Africa. (Much like the bank card linked to Malema’s slush fund followed him around the country.)

In an attempt to get to the bottom of his “great need”, Scorpio sent Shivambu two mails dated 9 September and 2 October 2019, containing questions relating to his wedding which seems to have been funded by a money-laundering scheme he himself directed. Shivambu responded erratically, firing off six emails in reply. Two of these contain contradicting claims.

On 2 October just after 3pm, Shivambu said: “Grand Azania does not belong to me. It belongs to my brother and that’s a fact.”

Floyd Shivambu’s name may not appear on company documents, and in that sense his claim is correct. In this investigation, Scorpio showed, however, how Shivambu effectively controlled and benefited from Grand Azania.

In the second installment in this series, Scorpio will further show how Shivambu spent R14.9-million dumped into Grand Azania, including R6.16-million funnelled to it which originated from VBS Mutual Bank.

Scorpio’s analysis further suggests that Brian Shivambu received very little of the money, and only managed the Grand Azania account on his brother’s behalf. Bank statements reflect, for example, where payments were effected to Be-Sure Events for the wedding, the name of “Shivambu, Answer” was used as a description. (Brian’s second name is Answer.)

Nyiko Floyd Shivambu first denied any knowledge of Grand Azania, and later tweaked his version to state that the company belongs to his brother Brian. Scorpio’s analysis shows that Brian received very little of the dodgy millions washing through Grand Azania. Brian seems to have managed certain tasks and the account for his brother, as is suggested by the above payments to Floyd’s wedding which bear Brian’s name.

Floyd Shivambu continued, saying: “All the assistance I got for my wedding came from close family friends and there was no conflict of interest, none whatsoever.”

He referred Scorpio to section 9.3.6 of the Code of conduct for members of Parliament. It reads “The following kinds of financial interests are registrable interests and must be disclosed: …gifts and hospitality in excess of R1,500, from a source other than a family member or permanent companion or gifts of a traditional nature provided that this does not create a conflict of interest for the member.”

It seems as if Shivambu attempts to argue he did not need to declare Mulaudzi’s “assistance” to Parliament by using a rule that states he should have.

About three hours later, Shivambu flipped, arguing that the “wrong phone and WhatsApp conversation” had been “hacked”. Mulaudzi never denied the veracity of the text messages.

The additional four mails accused this journalist of a romantic relationship with Werskmans attorney Bernard Hotz, of having her wedding funded with state money (she’s unmarried) and of being Hotz’s wife. Hotz conducted some of the work on several investigations the EFF may be in trouble for.

Shivambu has, however, like Malema and the EFF, consistently failed to engage with, answer or explain any of the material facts which shine a spotlight on their criminality.

The Mulaudzi link

Details of Mulaudzi’s involvement in Tosaco Energy, Total South Africa, Kilimanjaro Capital and Blackgold Oil and Gas spilled into the public gaze last year. Screenshots of text messages between Mulaudzi and several high-profile politicians and government officials were submitted by a whistle-blower to the Budlender inquiry into controversial PIC dealings last year, M&G reported. The conversations between Mulaudzi and Shivambu was captured in these whistle-blower leaks.

All was not well with Mulaudzi’s fantastical multibillion-rand deals, amaBhungane found, and reported that his leaked text messages suggested he had an open line to former PIC CEO Dan Matjila and former head of risk management at the PIC Paul Magula.

Magula is another team player in the VBS robbery. Daily Maverick Scorpio revealed how Magula splurged his R12.89-million in VBS loot on cars, a property and a home renovation.

Mulaudzi complained that the negative press had cost him billions in good deals over the past few months when Daily Maverick Scorpio telephonically questioned him about the messages and cash to Shivambu. He further declined to comment on what he labels “recycled” articles, saying he was “treated very unfairly and am sick and tired of the baseless stories tanking my business deals and tarnishing my image… I work with billions, I have lost billions thanks to these stories, I don’t care about R500,000. It is my money, I can gift money to whomever I want.”

When Daily Maverick sent detailed emailed questions, Mulaudzi first declined to answer “baseless questions”. A second email, sent almost an hour later, said: “I also want to put in record that I never gave any GIFT to Mr Shivambu.” Mulaudzi’s about-turn is understandable. Shivambu declared nothing of his R570,000 “wedding intervention” to Parliament.

And so it is that Floyd Shivambu finds himself in a Catch 22 situation. If he agrees that Grand Azania is his, Shivambu in effect agrees to what may be big-scale corruption and money laundering. If he continues to deny any link to Grand Azania, he will be in trouble with Parliament after the company spent over a half-million rand on his wedding – a crime that may carry a two-year prison sentence. DM


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