Africa-Press – South-Africa. Durban – At the heart of the alleged looting of about R320 million from the eThekwini municipality’s coffers, via the Durban Solid Waste (DSW) tenders, was an elaborate plan to solidify Zandile Gumede’s political stature and endear her to the masses.
That was the view of the State, contained in the indictment served on Gumede and 21 other accused in the DSW tender rigging matter this week.
They also claimed that while Gumede would have been regarded as a champion of the people by instructing that DSW work orders handed exclusively to four companies be subcontracted to township contractors.
However, kickbacks worth nearly R3m were allegedly directed back to her from the companies in the cartel.
The companies and their directors are listed as accused in the matter, including three eThekwini councillors, who were arrested last week.
After numerous time extensions, senior state prosecutor Ashika Lucken handed memory sticks to legal representatives of the accused, which contained the much awaited indictment, more details on 2786 charges, the audit report, telephone records, bank statements and other source documents.
The matter was before magistrate Dawn Somaroo at the Durban Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Tuesday.
Somaroo endorsed Lucken’s request for the matter to be moved to the Durban High Court, and reconvenes on June 14 with a pretrial hearing.
Lucken and her team alleged that Gumede and Mondli Mthembu, a former eThekwini councillor, were the driving forces behind the wanton looting that spanned 18 months (December 2017 to July 2019).
Together with Sipho Nzuza, the city manager, Sandile Ngcobo, eThekwini’s bid adjudication committee (BAC) head and Robert Abbu, the deputy head of strategic and new developments, they forged ahead with their radical plan.
A special position was even created at DSW, regardless of employment protocols, for Abbu, which enabled him to sign-off on refuse and illegal dumping contracts handed to the four companies.
In 2013, the municipality had contracted 27 service providers on three-year contracts to supplement their refuse collection capacity. Those contracts were due to expire between 2016 and 2017 and it was managed by Abbu.
It was his task to renew those contracts before they expired.
He received numerous requests from his DSW colleagues to do so, the State claims, but he didn’t.
By April 2017, Abbu would have seen the 1 088 quotes received for the appointment of contractors to the new DSW contract, but he did not evaluate them to enable awards.
In August that year, Gumede was appointed mayor together with various councillors.
It was stated that during this time, Gumede, announced her “radical economic transformation” intentions to councillors, and Mthembu gave them clarity on its implementation.
The pair then told councillors about the DSW contract due to expire, four contractors were to be appointed, and “Community Based Contractors” (CBC) would be taken on as their subcontractors.
Each councillor was “instructed” to appoint up to five CBCs, and one of them must be used as the conduit to receive their respective kickbacks.
They also ensured that business forums and the ANC’s MKMVA (uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association), via CBCs, benefited from the patronage network.
Only CBCs with directors affiliated to a certain faction within the ANC could be used. That apparently was the instruction from Gumede and Mthembu.
Abbu was appointed by Nzuza as the city’s head of “special projects”, in October 2017, a position that did not exist on their organogram previously, and done at Gumede and Mthembu’s behest.
The State claimed that Abbu’s line manager was an obstacle. Therefore, the new position was created so that he could bypass his superior’s authority and perform supply chain management (SCM ) functions on the “special project”.
Shortly after his appointment, Abbu applied to “deviate” from the usual SCM processes to invite quotations for the DSW contract, regardless of the 1088 bids already received.
Ngcobo’s BAC approved the request and 475 new quotes arrived.
But a day before the closing date for fresh bids in December, Abbu again requested another deviation regarding quotation invitations, which was granted and signed-off by Ngcobo.
A few days later, Uzuzinkela Trading CC, Ilanga Lamahlase Projects, Omphilethabang Projects and El Shaddai Holdings Group were the four companies invited to tender, even though some of them were not on the eThekwini or National Treasury’s database of service providers.
In spite of no compliance checks being done and SCM process flouted, the four companies were engaged.
The State found it odd that to invite bids for the new DSW contract, evaluate quotes, and finalise a BAC report took a day (18 December, 2017), yet, Abbu was unable to complete the same process with previous quotes received and award contracts since 2016.
The State claims, through phone records, they noticed Gumede, Mthembu, Nzuza, Ngcobo and Abbu and directors of the four companies, were in communication whenever decisions were to be made, even long before the award.
Their investigation revealed that the invoices submitted by the companies were inflated to feed the needs of the patronage network, and that the main contractors conspired with officials at landfill sites to “create the impression” that they disposed of great volumes of waste.
An example of this was claims made, on a few occasions, for disposals of more than 16 000kg, using a passenger vehicle with a 1.6litre engine capacity.
Tracking data also showed that owners of vehicles made claims when they were not located at landfill sites and duplicate weighbridge slips for payment claims were detected.
The State believed that Gumede and Mthembu would have not been able to achieve their “carefully planned and premeditated” acts of fraud, corruption, money laundering, and ignoring municipality conduct regulations and SCM principles, had they not received support from the various role players.
“It enabled large numbers of ANC ward councillors and committee members, business forums and organisations like the MKMVA to benefit financially from the DSW contract”, and simultaneously increased Gumede’s political popularity, the State reasoned.
They claimed that Gumede, Nzuza, Ngcobo and their family members, and the ANC (R100 000) benefited from the four main contractors over the 18 months and various juristic entities were used to “disguise the origin of the funds and the intended beneficiaries (Gumede, Nzuza, Ngcobo and many councillors).
HOW THE MONEY FLOWED
This is what the four chosen service providers allegedly received:
◆ El Shaddai: Received R52 487 890 between January 2018 and July 2019.
◆ Ilanga: Received R89 692 737 between December 2017 to July 2019.
◆ Omphile: Received R67 143 197 between January 2018 to July 2019.
◆ Uzuzinekela: Received R93233670 between January 2018 and June 2019.
The indictment detailed how money flowed from the companies and various beneficiaries, some of those transactions include:
◆ Various cash deposits into Zandile Gumede’s bank account from Ilanga, totalling R88 000.
◆ A cash deposit of R28 000 into ZP Gumede’s (the former mayor’s daughter) bank account from Ilanga.
◆ Between January 2017 and March 2019 Gumede received R824 450 from a person known as “the state”.
◆ K Hlela paid R1 609 335 towards Gumede’s rent on a Sunningdale home.
◆ Gumede was listed as paying R8000 to an optometrist, R8101 for car repairs and spending R43650 towards cellphone-related expenses.
◆ El Shaddai, Prabagaran Pariah, and Craig Ponnan were said to have transferred R100 000 into the ANC ethekwini region’s account, in favour of Gumede.
◆ Umvuyo, a company linked to El Shaddai and Craig Ponnan paid a cupboard contractor R18 900 in lieu of work done at Sipho Nzuza’s mother’s home.
◆ Among the purchases Umvuyo made on behalf of Craig Ponnan and his mother Sinthamonie was the R3.8m for a 2017 Lamborghini and R395000 towards a home loan on a Sandton property.
◆ Omphile made 284 payments worth more than R3.4m into accounts linked to councillors and Community Based Contractors (CBCS) between February 2018 and July 2019.
◆ Between February 2018 and March 2019, an entity named Buhlebamambo and linked to Uzuzinekela made 320 payments worth R5.9m into accounts of various councillors and CBCS.
◆ Another R10.6m was paid by Athikonke, another entity linked to Uzuzinekela, into the accounts of various councillors and CBCS during February 2018 and March 2019.
The chosen ones who received the tenders:
Here are the people behind the four chosen companies and their personal circumstances, according to court documents.
◆ Mzwandile Fortune Dludla: (Ilanga La Mahlase Projects) Dludla, 25, is listed as the sole director of the Durban North-based company that was contracted by DSW to collect domestic refuse and illegally dumped rubble in the northern region of Kwamashu. Dludla suspects that he has been spitefully implicated in the matter because the company sued the municipality for payment of R22.9m that is still outstanding on the said contract.
◆ Hlenga Trully Sibisi: (Ilanga La Mahlase Projects) Sibisi, 45, is listed as the company’s project manager but is believed to be the company’s driving force and decision maker. He resides in Umhlanga and owns properties in Durban North and Musgrave. Sibisi also believes he was implicated in this matter because of the court action the company brought against the city.
◆ Sinthamonie Ponnan: (Umvuyo Holdings CC) Ponnan, 65, is a director in the company that is said to be closely associated with the El Shaddai Holdings Group, one of the favoured companies. She is the mother of Craig, and resides in the Umhlanga house she owns.
◆ Craig Ponnan: Businessman Ponnan, 36, who lives in Umhlanga with his mother Sinthamonie, who is also an accused in this matter, has indicated that he has no assets to his name. However, it was mentioned in the indictment that Ponnan controls El Shaddai, which is associated with Umvuyo, the business that paid for improvements at Sipho Nzuza’s mother’s home.
◆ Bongani Pius Dlomo: (Omphile Thabang Projects) Dlomo, 54, is a co-director in the company. The Westville home that he lives in is in the name of the roads construction company that he and his wife Khoboso own jointly. The couple are also equal shareholders in a Thornville-based Christian camp, which caters for underprivileged children. Their other assets include a flat in Mtunzini and one in Cape Town, and a string of vehicles, plant and machinery.
◆ Khoboso Junior Dlomo: (Omphile Thabang Projects) Khoboso Dlomo, 51, a co-director in Omphile Thabang Projects has similar personal circumstances as her husband Bongani.
◆ Prabagaran (Ivan) Pariah: (El Shaddai Holdings Group CC) Pariah, 61, is listed as the sole director in the company and resides in Croftdene, Chatsworth.
◆ Zithulele Africa Mkhize: (Uzuzinekele Trading) Africa, 38, who lives in Hillcrest is listed as a director of the company. This father of six, like the other accused in this matter, also intends to plead not guilty to any charges brought against him.