Scorpio

SCORPIO

Party to the Plunder? Tshwane bus project, Prasa trains deal behind R10m ANC donation

Party to the Plunder? Tshwane bus project, Prasa trains deal behind R10m ANC donation
The Prasa Afro 4000 locomotive. (Photo: Supplied) | A Re Yeng bus. (Photo: Supplied) | Maria Gomes. (Photo: Supplied) | Auswell Mashaba. (Photo: AM Consulting Engineers, accessed via Internet Archive) | Illustrative Image: Righard Kapp

Does the ANC in effect feed off government contracts? The first of two new Scorpio investigations links a corrupt trains deal and a lucrative Tshwane transport project to a hefty donation the governing party received in 2014.

Funds from a huge City of Tshwane (CoT) transport project, coupled with proceeds from the Passenger Rail Agency of SA’s (Prasa) botched locomotives tender, in effect sponsored a R10-million donation the ANC pocketed in 2014.

Bank statements and other financial records allowed us to trace funds from the two contracts to a shadowy ANC “fundraiser”. This person ultimately paid the generous donation into the governing party’s fundraising account.

Our two-part series raises pertinent questions regarding the ANC’s fundraising machinery. Do the donations flagged in our reports constitute arm’s-length contributions from generous businesspeople? Or do they underpin something much more sinister? Is the ANC in effect pocketing alleged kickbacks from government contracts?

Today’s investigation examines financial dealings between Gauteng businessman Auswell Mashaba and Angolan national Maria Gomes, two key figures in Prasa’s corrupt R3.5-billion locomotives contract.

Gomes, one of the alleged fundraisers linked to the Prasa deal, has long been identified as a recipient of monies from Mashaba. However, the ANC’s gain from these dealings has never been illustrated in forensic detail.

Until today, that is.

Swifambo Rail Leasing and Swifambo Rail Holdings, the front companies Mashaba had set up specifically for the Prasa contract, banked R2.65-billion from the state-owned rail operator, before the transaction dramatically collapsed in 2015.

This wasn’t the only public transport project Mashaba had been involved in.

By the time the Prasa deal came about, one of Mashaba’s other companies was already earning huge fees from the CoT. At the time, the metro was controlled by the ANC.

A-M Consulting Engineers, or AMCE, was first appointed in 2011 to run the project management unit for the metro’s Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN). One of AMCE’s core tasks was to help deliver Tshwane’s A Re Yeng bus service. Between 2011 and 2017, AMCE earned R1.4-billion in fees from the CoT.

The Tshwane tender may warrant every bit as much scrutiny as Swifambo’s Prasa deal. Here, we detail how the metro lifted the cap on AMCE’s contract, paving the way for a colossal increase in the fees AMCE ended up pocketing.

Our investigation reveals how some of Swifambo’s proceeds from the Prasa contract got mixed up with AMCE’s earnings from the Tshwane project. We’ll illustrate how AMCE diverted some of these co-mingled funds to one of Gomes’ companies. Crucially, we’ll illustrate how Gomes ultimately used these very funds to forward R10-million to the ANC. This chain of transactions leaves very little doubt as to whether the governing party had been gifted a boon that consisted purely of public monies.

Mashaba could not be reached for comment. He ignored multiple emails and text messages offering him a right of reply.

“The ANC is at this stage unable to provide information as to the circumstances or nature of the purported donations,” the governing party said in a written statement.

It added: “In its submission to the State Capture Commission, the ANC acknowledged evidence presented to the [Zondo] Commission ‘that suggests that the ANC may have been the recipient of donations from individuals and companies that received contracts from the state, including in instances where the awarding of those contracts are alleged to have been unlawful’.”

“The ANC stands ready to provide whatever assistance may be sought from law enforcement agencies in the investigation of these purported donations or any other alleged criminal activity.” Here is the ANC’s full response.

Money trail

Our trek through the Swifambo and AMCE accounts takes us back to 2013. On 5 April of that year, a Friday, Swifambo Rail Holdings received an eye-watering R460.5-million in its Standard Bank current account.

Swifambo’s first huge payment from Prasa.

This was Swifambo’s very first payment from Prasa.

On the Monday, 8 April, Mashaba began to divert large chunks of the Prasa payment to other accounts. This included payments to his own trust. These transactions had absolutely nothing to do with sourcing locomotives for Prasa. In just two weeks’ time, Mashaba drained R138.8-million from the Swifambo account. This was money that should have gone to Vossloh Espana, the Spanish manufacturer that Swifambo had subcontracted to deliver the trains. Mashaba’s actions left too little funds in the Swifambo account to fully settle Vossloh Espana’s bills. Mashaba had therefore in effect scuppered the deal at the very outset.

In the below letter, recently retrieved from ongoing liquidation proceedings, Vossloh informed Swifambo that it would suspend the manufacturing process. In the end, Vossloh only delivered 13 of the 70 locomotives that Prasa had ordered through Swifambo. They were found to be too tall for the country’s rail specifications.

One of the entities that received bits of the first Prasa payment was Mashaba’s engineering firm, A-M Consulting Engineers, or AMCE.

Directly after Swifambo was paid by Prasa, Mashaba began moving funds to other accounts. Some of the money went to AMCE, his engineering firm.

On the Monday following the big Prasa payment, Mashaba moved R5-million from Swifambo Rail Holdings to AMCE’s business current account, referencing the transaction as a “loan”. The next day, he transferred a R3-million “loan” from Swifambo to AMCE. None of these “loans” was ever repaid.

Meanwhile, AMCE was also getting money from the Tshwane metro. On that very same Monday, a payment of R9.8-million from the metro arrived in AMCE’s business current account. As a result, funds from the Tshwane bus project and the Prasa trains deal were in effect blended together in the AMCE account.

R5m from Swifambo arrives in AMCE’s business current account. On the same day, AMCE received R9.8m from the City of Tshwane.

The next day, 9 April, Mashaba moved R9.8-million from AMCE’s business account to AMCE’s Standard Bank investment account. The money remained in the investment account only for a very brief period of time. Later that same day, Mashaba moved the R9.8-million from the investment account to an AMCE savings account, also held at Standard Bank.

The R9.8m from the City of Tshwane arrives in AMCE’s savings account, via a Standard Bank investment account.

Whether Mashaba’s intentions were to separate the Tshwane monies from the Prasa funds is unclear. If this were indeed what he’d hoped to achieve, the effect would have been temporary. In August 2013, Mashaba again moved some of Swifambo’s locomotives funds to AMCE. This time, he paid R4-million directly into the AMCE savings account. He referenced the transaction as a so-called refund. Again, funds from the trains deal and the Tshwane project were now mixed together in the AMCE savings account.

The R4m ‘refund’ exits the AMCE business current account. . .

 

. . . and hops into the AMCE savings account.

Meanwhile, AMCE was receiving a steady stream of payments from the Tshwane metro. Between April and December, the city transferred R227-million to AMCE’s current account. Mashaba moved much of this money — at least R100-million — to the savings account, using the Standard Bank investment account as a pipeline.

A series of transactions from December 2013 illustrates this flow of funds. On 18 December, the metro paid R31.8-million into AMCE’s business current account. Mashaba subsequently moved R20-million to the AMCE investment account. Finally, on 31 December, he transferred R20-million from the investment account into the AMCE savings account.

Funds from the Tshwane transport project went from AMCE’s business current account to the company’s savings account. The funds took a detour through AMCE’s investment account.

By the end of the year, AMCE’s savings account showed a healthy balance of roughly R70-million. This was largely made up of funds from the Tshwane transport project, mixed with whatever would have been left over from the Swifambo deposit.

Gomes the ‘fundraiser’

How Mashaba got mixed up with Gomes has been a matter of some contention.

When the Prasa scandal first broke in 2015, Mashaba allegedly confessed to then Prasa chairperson Popo Molefe that the Angolan businesswoman had approached him to demand a cut of the trains deal.

Mashaba later denied that those had been his words to Molefe. But his affidavit in the Swifambo review application is telling. Mashaba claimed he’d been introduced to Gomes by lawyer George Sabelo, a business partner of then president Jacob Zuma’s son, Edward. Crucially, Mashaba stated that both Sabelo and Gomes presented themselves as “fundraisers for the ANC”.

Sabelo would later deny these claims. In testimony filed in ongoing liquidation proceedings, he stated: “I have never been a fundraiser for the ANC … I have never, at any stage, introduced Mrs Gomes to Mr Mashaba.” Sabelo claimed that Gomes had been his client, and that he’d been helping her set up businesses in South Africa. However, there is a strong political flavour to Sabelo’s involvement in the saga. His law firm, Nkosi Sabelo, received nearly R30-million from Swifambo. We’ve previously detailed how some of this money was used to purchase a Mercedes SUV. Jacob Zuma’s PA at Luthuli House once posted a picture of the car on her Facebook page.

Plunder Party

R10m to the ANC

Sabelo may deny that he’d acted as an ANC “fundraiser”, but the bank records we’ll now unpack prove that his “client”, Gomes, funnelled funds to the governing party.

In early January 2014, Gomes’ company, Similex, sent two invoices to Mashaba’s AMCE. The first invoice, dated 1 January, was for R14.1-million. A second invoice, for R16.45-million, was sent to Mashaba on 5 January.

One of the invoices Gomes’ company, Similex, had sent to Mashaba’s AMCE.

On both invoices, Similex claimed that it had done “planning, development and implementation” work for the IRPTN, Tshwane’s transport project.

On 10 January 2014, Mashaba transferred exactly R14.1-million from AMCE’s savings account to an FNB account belonging to Gomes’ Similex, thereby settling the first invoice. On 20 January, AMCE transferred R14.5-million to Similex. It is not clear why this figure differs from the one on the second invoice.

From the AMCE savings account, Mashaba transferred R28.6m to Similex. He did so in two tranches.

Whatever the case, Similex now held in its account R28.6-million from AMCE, monies that purely derived from funds that AMCE had amassed on the back of the Tshwane and Prasa contracts.

On 10 January 2014, a payment of R14.1m from AMCE arrived in Similex’s FNB account.

On 24 January 2014, four days after Similex had received the second payment from AMCE, Gomes moved R15-million from her company’s FNB account into her personal cheque account. She did so by way of three transfers of R5-million each.

The second transfer from AMCE was cleared into the Similex account on 20 January 2014. Similex now held R28.6m from AMCE. Four days later, Gomes moved R15m to her personal FNB account.

Finally, directly after Gomes had received the R15-million from Similex, she transferred R10-million to the ANC. This was done through two transfers of R5-million apiece. Gomes entered “Anc Fundraising” and “Friends Da Cruz” as references for the transfers. (Her full name is Maria Caetano Da Cruz Gomes.)

The R15m from Similex enters Gomes’ person FNB account. She then swiftly forwards R10m to the ANC.

We were able to confirm that the two R5-million transfers from Gomes indeed ended up in an ANC account. The Nedbank account, called the ‘ANC Fundraising’ account, was listed by the party in this 2021 statement regarding a crowdfunding campaign.

Prasa boon or bus bonanza?

One might be tempted to ascribe the ANC’s boon to the Tshwane transport project. After all, the metro made one of its payments to AMCE shortly before Gomes submitted her invoices to Mashaba. What’s more, the Similex invoices specifically referenced the IRPTN project.

But there are just too many factors suggesting that Gomes had come into the picture as a result of the Prasa deal, not the Tshwane project.

We can’t discount the possibility that the IRPTN invoices were merely a means to move funds from AMCE to Gomes’ company.

A former AMCE employee, who was directly involved in the Tshwane bus project, told us he had no recollection of a company called Similex doing work for AMCE.

Gomes herself once told this reporter that Similex was paid for work it had supposedly done on the locomotives contract.

Then there is the R2.5-million that Sabelo’s law firm had passed on to Similex. Nkosi Sabelo paid the money to Gomes’ company in June 2013, two months after the firm had received nearly R30-million from Swifambo. In other words, Similex had pocketed some of the locomotives money long before it received the IRPTN payments from AMCE.

Another clue surfaced when investigators searched Prasa’s computer servers. This was after the Prasa scandal had broken. They found email exchanges between Gomes and none other than Lucky Montana, the parastatal’s then CEO. In the emails, Montana and Gomes discussed some of Prasa’s projects and contracts.

Finally, there is Montana’s startling testimony at the Zondo Commission. The former Prasa boss said he had visited Gomes at her Sandton home, accompanied by then ANC treasurer-general Dr Zweli Mkhize. ‘‘We discussed ANC finances and all of those things there,” the former Prasa boss told the commission. In fact, Montana went as far as alleging that Mkhize had given Gomes the details for the ANC’s donations account.

The boundaries between AMCE’s Tshwane revenues and Swifambo’s Prasa earnings were further blurred after AMCE had paid Similex. In February 2014, Mashaba began moving more monies from Swifambo to AMCE. Come September 2015, he had transferred a further R18-million in locomotives money to his engineering firm’s accounts.

So, did the ANC benefit from the Prasa deal, or from the Tshwane tender? A bit of both, it seems. The Prasa deal appears to have brought Gomes into the picture, while AMCE’s metro tender seemingly accounts for the larger portion of the funds.

But perhaps we needn’t be all that pedantic.

In the end, Gomes proved herself a most proficient fundraiser, channelling to the governing party a welcome chunk of Mashaba’s tender riches. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Grenville Wilson says:

    And now what?

  • Johan Buys says:

    Almost a decade later and no orange overalls in sight.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    ANC has corruption mania,serial offenders ad infinitum

  • Richard Bryant says:

    At least in Angola, Gomes has had her assets frozen, an interpol warrant for her arrest had been issued and was prevented from shifting money from Portugal to russia. But she remains on the run, hiding in that same place that protects the Guptas – Dubai.

    In SA, Ramaphosa who came into office in 2017 has done nothing but bluster on about corruption. He doesn’t even know where the Guptas are.

    • Denise Smit says:

      The Gomes p[cture in the article does not look like the same Maria de cruz Gomes of Angola who is the daughter of the previous politician and businessman of Angola

    • Nick Griffon says:

      Are you not thinking of Isabelle Dos Santos from Angola?

    • Geoff Coles says:

      But wasn’t Ramaphosa Zuma’s Deputy back in 2014

    • James McMichael says:

      ANC is utterly corrupt and rotten from top to bottom, with no exceptions. And then “our people” are surprised that things are getting relentlessly worse for them!!. Hmm but this is what you voted for, team members.

  • Stuart Woodhead says:

    Auswell Mashaba has many game farms and AMLodge (which seems to be a money laundering operation) in the Hoedspruit area.
    When are all of these going to be attached. ?
    Also check all contracts awarded to his brothers engineering business.

  • David Bristow says:

    It has taken this long to work out what’s been going down inside Union Buildings and Luthuli House?! It’s been fairly obvious for at least the past 20 years, it was just a matter of connecting the dots and following the money. Freedom to plunder. But at least now we have solid proof.

  • M E says:

    Only those fortunate to have internet access (read not the bulk of ANC voters) can read this in disgust, yet none of this will reach the SABC News offices, or rather, stays hidden on purpose. How sad is it that in this day and age, ordinary citizens of a country has ZERO access to this very important investigative report.

    • T'Plana Hath says:

      I don’t think it is a matter of access. As of 2021, 99.9 percent of the population in South Africa had access to the 3G mobile network. 4G/LTE coverage increased significantly from 53 percent in 2015 to 97.7 percent in 2021. This trend was accompanied by rapidly growing smartphone penetration that more than doubled to 91.2 percent over the four-year period from 2016 to 2019.

      • M E says:

        Access does not equate to viewing though. This should be broadcast on each and every news station and tv channel,as it has direct effects on each South African. Daily Maverick is doing a stellar job exposing these criminals though!

    • Proudly ZA says:

      Sad indeed that the uninformed remains uninformed and can be told so many lies.

  • Ompaletse Mokwadi says:

    The sad thing is that the poor and marginalised people who shout party slogans have no idea as to what’s going on – which is, in fact, the reason why they remain poor and marginalised (CORRUPTION)!!!

  • Ian Gwilt says:

    All a bit complicated for our plods to understand and comprehend.
    The voters of COT will blame the DA
    No appetite from anyone to roll back the stone as there are probably dozens more deals underneath.
    And still the ANC will be in power after the elections, you get what you deserve.

  • Kevin Eborall says:

    Another brilliant expose. The question is if DM can do it why can’t the SIU. The answer : The ANC is incorrigible corrupt. It needs corruption to fund its political position. The entire leadership is corrupt. No exceptions. And because of that they are destroying our country. In a just society our prisons would be full of ANC politicians and their rentseekers. The misery they have inflicted on those they are supposed to represent is incalculable .
    Let’s hope that at least SOME change comes after the election .

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Lots of dirty, murky Auswell Mashaba deals up here in Hoedspruit, Limpopo – dirty property deals for cash; both now illegal, and since when have honest people bought properties, expensive properties with cash? The way to prosecute is to arrest the sellers, and they too are not hard to find.

  • Lordwick Mamadi says:

    And the ANC has a nerve to tell it’s gullible masses that Tshwane Metro under the DA led coalition is collapsing. Hellen Zille was right when she said BEE only enriches the few connected ANC elite while leaving millions of black people to wallow in an unescapable poverty and hopelessness. The ANC will never cease to be corrupt. Making money through looting is what propels ANC ship forward!!

  • Henry Coppens says:

    Seems enough evidence to go to court. So what is the DA, FF+ or even Action SA – oops, they might not want to get involved lest they lose an invitiation to join the ANC after the election, doing about this?

  • Rae Earl says:

    The vomitorious ANC, constantly being touted by the lily livered Ramaphosa as being ‘in renewal’ and ‘fighting corruption’. What a laugh. The horse bolted years ago and piles of money was shared by Zuma and his mob of maggots. Ramaphosa has simply aided and abetted by refusing to expose the pigs by keeping the Zondo commission report under wraps. Wonder how much found its way into his sofa while he was deputy to arch criminal Jacob Zuma. The most sickening aspect is that both these traitors to SA and its desperately poor people , is that those same people will cast votes for them on May 29th. They deserve to remain desperately poor. If just 10% of them had to vote DA things might change and enrich their miserable lives.

  • Mark Penwarden says:

    Seems the ANC and friends can just move millions around between accounts without much hassle from the banks or SARS. I move 110k and get hit with donations tax.

  • Nick Griffon says:

    The ANC is a criminal cartel.

  • JC Coetzee says:

    Not new news. Nomvula Mokonyane told the Zondo Commision (I am paraphrasing): you get the tender, you pay the ANC, you pay yourself, you do the tender. So it has been in the public domain for some time. We now learn the details of how. Thank you.

    • Michael Thomlinson says:

      Correction: you get the tender, you pay the ANC, pay the rest of the money to yourself and forget about the tender. ie no work is performed. That is why the metros, and SOE’s are falling apart and there is no service delivery.

  • Greg S says:

    Just another day in SA

  • Tinker Tonker says:

    And still the sheep will vote for them

  • Africa Thaba says:

    Just shocking, so much money! wasted on timberlands and trips to Fournos, where is prasa and CoT now? picking up the pieces or creating more messes?

    The law really needs to reaffirm itself as the symbol of justice, without impartial intervention we are destined for a sour decline I fear.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    It is about time that the ANC assets. including all bank accounts, should be attached to recover monies received from corrupt tenders and tenderers. However this is something the Hawks etc will not be allowed to do, or are too afraid to pursue

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Too complicated to easily absorb, but how did these purported business people get the contracts initially. The black hand of ANC Treasury / Fundraising features heavily, scummy lawyers and cadres too of course.

    But what next, Ramaphosa shocked undoubtly, NPA waiting for instructions that will never come.

  • Gary Palmer says:

    Brilliant investigations and entertaining bank statements, in fact very entertaining, lavish splash out.

    Who is the guy who pushes the ‘enter’ button for the execution of a trial? Is he/she on long leave?

  • Donald Knight says:

    I feel that something should be done to get this kind of report translated into all the official languages in order to reach a wider readership.

    • District Six says:

      It may surprise you, you know, but we natives do speak English, dear man. You just need to speak more slowly and loudly. Intersperse it with very loud, “Do you understand?” at regular intervals.
      You could also try learning five or six of our languages, uMlungu, to facilitate communication between the races. Wa bona?

  • Johan von Solms says:

    Is it really not possible to start doing something about this? Maybe we should start thinking about a ‘citizen force’ of some kind that can investigate and charge these people. I would certainly be willing to donate money to an organisation that looks after our tax money. Maybe a joint Afriforum, Outa etc effort could be of real value to us as citizens. It is such a shame that the excellent work of investigative journalism in our country goes to waste in so many cases, because our state parastatals are not able or willing to execute their duties. Just an idea.

  • Donald Knight says:

    This kind of report needs to be made available in other official languages and spread through all media types.

  • Confucious Says says:

    A Looter continua ad Infinitum!

  • Greeff Kotzé says:

    I still don’t understand why SOEs like Prasa cannot engage with manufacturers such as Vossloh directly. (Well, I suppose we know the real ‘why’, but what is the official justification?)

    What supposedly value did Swifambo purport to add to the locomotive purchase?

    Efficiency and value-for-money in state infrastructure spending will uplift the average South African far more than these sweetheart deals for pointless middlemen.

  • Penny Philip says:

    How are the people involved still not in jail?

  • Indeed, very complex range of transactions and money footprint. To make it simple considered the following as a departure. Spot exchange rate 11.8 to Euro was ruling at that time. It then seems to be a markup of some 34% paid to Mashaba from PRASA which was their fee to import the Locos. First of all, on what to follow the prosecutors will have to prove that this was an illegal transaction. Without going further, a second issue was what happened to the about 4m Euros never paid to VOSSLOH

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    Say it isn’t so! Surely the glorious liberation movement can’t be involved in stealing money from the citizens of SA can it? I think we should provide the law enforcement authorities space to follow their processes while leaving no stones unturned before we jump to any conclusions. There is nothing here but more irrefutable proof in the form of money trails after all.

  • Ben Hawkins says:

    What else do you expect from these corrupt vultures.

  • Neels Pienaar says:

    No. Kieswetter is in with all these guys. What did he do with Cyril and his phalaphal millions. He just looked the other way. But there is a nasty threat from him on the news every day for the normal people who worked there asses of for that same guys. Sis.

  • Indeed Jhb says:

    Well well thank you, now the real reason behind the destruction (at all cost) of DA coalitions in the main metros is clear – the tap will be closed and funding to the ruling party through carefully selected tenders will be disabled!
    Adding to that how government departments just love ”implementing agents” to do their work for them….. it is a brilliant way of syphoning billions (think that Gupta dairy farm, one of hundreds of the same type contracts). The scale of the theft is probably 10 years of SA Inc total budget or maybe I am being conservative. Wonder how the story reflects in the tax returns of these individuals and companies involved

  • JOHANN SCHOLTZ says:

    Brilliant investigative journalism

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    “Does the ANC in effect feed off government contracts?”

    Yes. Because they’re unconscionable scum. From the President to the councils in the tiniest villages. Every ANC member in power at every level is either corrupt to the core, ambivalent about it to protect their own income, or ignores it to put party before people. No longer can any ANC fatcat claim ignorance of the grand, filthy theft that their party has engaged in for years simply to keep them rolling in luxury. Absolute scum.

  • District Six says:

    Just want to know if this CoT saga was during the mayorship of the current Minister of Electric? I’ll help you: he was mayor from 2010-2016.

  • Sydney Halliday says:

    The amounts quoted for consulting type work are staggering. In the real world, how much work and resources do you need to do and deploy to earn the kind of money revealed. The entire public sector procurement system needs to be reviewed and revised. And the corruption continues. After being broke and unable to pay employees, suddenly ANC was flush with money. We need a tax revolt to stop this.

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