Lottery contractor gave millions towards ex-board chair’s mansion
A Special Tribunal preservation order freezing the luxury mansion of Alfred Nevhutanda left out several companies that also made contributions
A private company that has been paid millions for providing services to the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), contributed R2-million towards the luxury mansion of Alfred Nevahutanda, the NLC’s former board chairperson.
Neo Solutions was paid over R26-million in fees by the NLC, according to NLC commissioner Thabang Mampane in answer to a parliamentary question.
Last month, the Special Tribunal issued a preservation order freezing the mansion and its contents. The order was granted against Nevhutanda and Vhutanda Investments, a private company that owns the property. Nevhutanda is the sole director of the company, according to official company records.
Also included in the order were five non-profit entities and two private companies, as well as 20 people involved with them. Between them, the non-profits received around R100-million in Lottery grants, and they in turn, directly or indirectly, contributed millions of rands to help pay for Nevhutanda’s lavish home, according to the SIU.
The preservation order confirmed earlier reporting by GroundUp.
But GroundUp can reveal that Zibsimanzi, a non-profit linked to the wife of NLC chief operating officer Phillemon Letwaba, and several other private companies that also contributed towards the house, were not included in the Special Tribunal order.
Apparently, this is because the SIU only became aware of Zibsimanzi’s involvement after the order was granted. The money from Zibsimanzi was channelled to MDU Consulting, a firm of consulting engineers. MDU then paid millions to conveyancing attorneys acting in the sale of the mansion.
Another firm of consulting engineers, VNMM Consulting Engineers, of which Nevhutanda’s son-in-law is a director, also paid millions towards the house.
GroundUp understands that the SIU would have to apply for Zibsimanzi and others to be added to the existing Tribunal order.
Responding to detailed emailed questions, NLC spokesperson Ndivhuho Mafela said, “The transactions cited in your enquiry are at the heart of the SIU investigation which is ongoing … The NLC will only make a determination after engaging with the final report of the SIU investigation.”
Nevhutanda failed to respond to emailed questions.
Following the money
Companies that chipped in millions to pay for Nevhutanda’s house, but were not included in the Special Tribunal preservation order include: Neo Solutions, MDU Consulting Engineers, VNMM Consulting Engineers and Zibsimanzi.
Neo Solutions attracted attention when it featured at the Zondo Commission, when Vivien Natasen, one of two directors in the company, appeared in connection with allegedly corrupt transactions involving SA Express. Zondo recommended the NPA consider criminal charges against Natasen.
Neo has earned millions from government tenders, including playing a role in the R8.8-billion taxi recapitalisation project.
GroundUp has established that Neo Solutions paid R2-million towards the house. It is not clear why Neo, a service provider to the NLC, would contribute towards the R27-million rand mansion of the Commission’s then board chairman.
MDU Consulting Engineers and Zibsimanzi
MDU Consulting Engineers and Zibsimanzi, an NPC, made payments totalling R3.5-million towards the purchase of the house.
The NLC approved a grant of R4.8-million to Zibsimanzi on 21 November 2017 for a soccer tournament for elderly women in Phalaborwa, Limpopo. GroundUp has been unable to find any evidence that the tournament was ever staged; and if it was, how almost R5-million was spent on staging it.
The grant came just six months after Zibsimanzi was bought as an NPC off the shelf and then used to apply for Lottery funding. This was within six months of Rebotile Malamane, the second wife of Phillemon Letwaba (he has two wives), and one of Letwaba’s associates, Themba Mabundza, and a third person were appointed as directors of Zibsimanzi.
Zibsimanzi transferred R4.25-million to MDU, which in turn paid R3.5-million to attorneys handling the sale of the house to Nevhutanda.
Neither Phillemon Nzima, the sole director of MDU, nor Malamane responded to detailed questions sent to them via WhatsApp.
Mabundza said in answer to questions via WhatsApp: “I have no knowledge about these payments or companies you are referring to and I would urge you to get your facts correct.”
With regard to the Zibsimanzi grant, he said: “The project was fully implemented and the report was sent to the National Lotteries Commission, and to our knowledge, the project is closed. We have also fully cooperated with the investigation by SIU and law enforcement officers on this project.”
VNMM Consulting Engineers
VNMM Consulting Engineers made payments totalling R4.3-million towards the purchase of the house.
Nehutanda’s son-in-law, Meshack Makhubela, is the sole director of VNMM. He is married to Nevhutanda’s daughter, Murendwa Sharon.
In 2011, Sharon and her father were caught up in scandal after News24 revealed that an NPO, Makhaya Arts and Culture, had employed the then 22-year-old film school graduate as a marketing executive in 2010. Her appointment came only weeks after the (then) National Lotteries Board Arts and Culture Distribution agency, on which her father had previously served, approved a R41-million grant to Makhaya to stage overseas “arts extravaganzas”.
After being contacted via SMS, Makhubela supplied his and his lawyer’s email addresses and asked for questions to be emailed to both. Neither responded to the questions.
Neo cashes in
Neo Solutions earned over R26-million from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) between 2014 and 2021, according to an answer by NLC Commissioner Mapane to a parliamentary question posed by DA shadow minister for Trade, Industry and Competition Mat Cuthbert.
R22.6-million of this, paid during the 2014 to 2016 financial years, was for the “Project Management Cost of the Third National Lottery Licence RFP (Request for proposal) and decommissioning thereof.” The third licence was issued to Ithuba under controversial circumstances, leading to litigation.
Neo was also paid R2.98-million in the 2016/17 financial year to document the National Lottery licence process.
Neo was also paid R498,000 in the 2020/21 financial year for a “cyber security assessment”. The NLC had previously claimed that its computer system was hacked and information stolen and used by GroundUp for its long-running investigation into the Lottery. The NLC also reported this reporter to the State Security Agency (SSA), claiming he had been involved in hacking their computer system.
Responding to detailed emailed questions, Natasen said that Neo was cooperating with the SIU investigation involving Nevhutanda’s house, and “been advised any interaction/comments whilst such an investigation is underway may be prejudicial to the investigation and the related legal processes which are underway.”
“In the circumstances, we are restricted in providing any response to your questions on those specific issues, however, we are happy to provide you with detailed responses when appropriate to do so.”
He said Neo was “appointed through the NLC’s supply chain processes, as and when services are required”. Neo was not a “regular recipient” of projects from the NLC, he said.
Neo Solutions at Zondo
Neo Solutions featured at the Zondo Commission when Vivien Natasen, one of two directors in the company, appeared in connection with allegedly corrupt transactions involving SA Express.
In his final report on state capture, Judge Raymond Zondo described the SA Express deals as “designed to take money out of the state’s coffers for the benefit of those with power and influence who orchestrated the scheme. All of the government and state officials, as well as private individuals who were involved in this looting scheme, should be brought to justice.”
Natasen told the commission in 2019 that neither he nor Neo had benefited from payments from Koreneka Trading and Projects, a company allegedly hijacked by former SA Express general commercial manager Brian van Wyk.
Natasen said that whatever they received from Van Wyk was returned to him.
Koreneka Trading and Projects sole director Babadi Tlatsana had earlier testified that her company paid R9.9-million to Neo Solutions. Neo Solutions then paid R9.3-million to Batsamai Investments, which is owned by Sipho Levy Phiri, Van Wyk’s life partner.
In his final report, Zondo wrote: “Serious consideration [should] be given by the NPA to charging Vivien Natasen with money laundering and the use of the proceeds of crime after such further investigation as the law enforcement agencies may conduct.”
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