AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Hamilton Ndlovu: One year and one Special Tribunal later, but still no fraud charge
The flamboyant businessman – who was ordered to cough up R157-million from dodgy PPE contracts – made headlines again this week after an aborted auction of luxury cars.
It’s been a year since a Special Tribunal ordered Ndlovu to repay R157-million fraudulently acquired through personal protective equipment contracts.
That amount is part of R172-million in Covid-19 PPE contracts from the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), which were declared unlawful, invalid and set aside. Eight companies owned by Ndlovu and his associates had scored payments between 31 March and 29 June 2020.
Yet he has still not been slapped with a fraud charge.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said on Friday, 7 July that the matter is still being investigated.
Mhaga did, however, detail the SIU’s progress in tackling corruption cases related to the procurement of Covid-19 materials.
He said that, by the end of May 2023, information from the “fusion centre” – a one-stop-shop set up by the government in 2020 in the wake of pandemic graft – revealed that the SIU had made 161 referrals.
“In respect of 104 referrals a decision has been made to decline to prosecute, while criminal prosecutions have been instituted in respect of 98 referrals. There were 52 verdicts obtained, with 49 accused convicted. The balance of 184 referrals out of 386 referrals are still under investigation,” he explained.
Read more in Daily Maverick: R8bn and counting: That’s the cost of Covid-related corruption, says updated SIU report
At the tribunal on 7 June 2022, Judge Lebogang Modiba was scathing: “I find that the PPE procedures adopted by the NHLS to produce PPE to combat Covid-19 emergency were fraudulently exploited by Ndlovu and the fronting companies.
“He (Ndlovu) emptied the accounts of the fronting companies as soon as NHLS made the impugned payment to these companies. He has not disputed this version.”
The NHLS case is one of many linked to R8-billion in Covid-related corruption unearthed by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
Brake on an auction
Ndlovu made the news again on Wednesday this week when five of his luxury cars – including a 2020 Porsche 911 Carerra, a 2019 Porsche Panamera GTS and a 2019 Lamborghini Urus – were due to go under the hammer at Park Village Auction. However, it was called off at the 11th hour.
Park Village director Clive Lazarus told Daily Maverick the matter was sub judice, but said:
“We received instructions on the evening of 4 July to postpone the sale of high-profile assets stemming from Hamilton Projects CC in its upcoming national vehicle auction. The sale of the five luxury sports cars was set to take place on Wednesday.
“Information from the auction house thus far states: ‘The curator bonis (Zaheer Cassim) has postponed the auction of the executive vehicles in the matter of Hamilton Ndlovu to a date yet to be confirmed, subject to creditor ratification and legal process.”
In May 2020, the South African Revenue Service executed a provisional preservation order against Ndlovu and his companies, seizing three of his Porsches, freezing more than R6-million in his bank accounts and placing his assets under the curatorship of Zaheer Cassim of Cassim Incorporated.
Meanwhile, Ndlovu’s wife, Felicia Sekete, director of Feliham, one of the eight companies linked to the NHLS case, has already been charged with fraud along with chief financial officer Michael Sass.
Feliham allegedly received a PPE tender worth R14.4-million in July 2020 from the NHLS, even though it had been blacklisted by National Treasury from doing business with the government.
Feliman is among the companies linked to Ndlovu that have been banned from doing business with the NHLS.
Paragraph 54 of this judgment reads: “Abuse of the public procurement system can only be effectively abated when the infracting parties are restricted from trading with the State. On the basis of the findings made against Hamilton Ndlovu, the companies he represents, Mok Plus One, Persto, Kgodumo and Luiborn Dorn Ndlovu in his capacity as a director in Joritans in these proceedings, the NHLS is urged to invoke section 15 of the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act to list these entities, their directors and shareholders on the database of restricted supplies.”
Sass and Sekete were arrested on 15 August 2021 and appeared briefly in the Commercial Crimes Court sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrates’ Court on charges relating to contravention of the Public Finance Management Act and fraud. They were released on bail of R20,000 each.
Hawks spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Philani Nkwalase said this matter is not directly related to the NHLS case involving Ndlovo and his companies, and Ndlovu is not implicated in it. Sekete and Sass are due back in court in October 2023. DM