It is becoming more evident that there are a lot of skeletons in the closet of EFF. The deputy president of EFF, Floyd Shivambu, had in the past told the Parliament that the only income he received in 2017 was his salary for being a member of the National Assembly.
However, a number of messages through Whatsapp and SMSes shows that Shivambu and prominent businessman Lawrence Mulaudzi had questionable dealings. Amabhungane saw messages whereby Floyd requested for money from Muladzi not once but twice and for the transfer to be made into his notorious brother’s business account (Brian) who runs Grand Azania.
The messages suggest that in exchange Shivambu used his position as the EFF’s second-in-command to secure meetings and potential business deals for Mulaudzi to secure meetings and potential shady business deals for Mulaudzi.
It is evident that powerful EFF figures cannot keep their hands clean and use their political statusfor financial benefit. Mulaudzi has been in the spotlight at the Mpati Commission, which is tasked with investigating allegations of wrongdoing at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC). His companies received loans of R3.6-billion from the PIC.
One well-placed source has suggested that the “interventions” to Shivambu were part of a pattern of Mulaudzi providing favours to decision-makers and influencers to keep that funding pipeline flowing.
In another example Mulaudzi’s business partner, Kinesh Pather, was looking for help to quell community protests at a chrome mine in Limpopo and told Mulaudzi that they needed the “Red boys” to “reign in” (sic) one of the community leaders.
Shivambu and the EFF ignored requests for comment that amaBhungane sent over the past three weeks.
Mulaudzi responded to our initial questions and said: “I have a relationship with Mr Floyd Shivhambu which dates back to our ANC Youth League days. There has never been anything untoward about this relationship”.
Mulaudzi also implied that the messages were part of a “fake dossier” which he claimed had been “manufactured” and “distributed” by a person trying to destroy his businesses and reputation.
After we sent detailed questions to Mulaudzi about the urgent “interventions” into Grand Azania’s bank account, he stopped responding.
It was 9:28am on 27 March 2017, and according to the WhatsApp sent to Mulaudzi’s phone, a contact saved as “DP FS” was in “great need”.
“Heita… Please don’t forget to activate that intervention. Am in great need,” the message read.
Although we cannot directly see the identity of “DP FS”, other messages sent by the same person leave no doubt the acronym refers to “Deputy President Floyd Shivambu”. This includes messages containing Shivambu’s email address, his cellphone number, his home address in Bryanston, a wedding invitation for Shivambu’s wedding, and photographs of the bride and groom.
And in case there was any doubt that “intervention” meant money, DP FS followed up with a message giving the FNB account details for Grand Azania, a small wine bar and distribution company ostensibly controlled by Shivambu’s younger brother Brian.
This is one of two instances we are aware of where Shivambu asked Mulaudzi for money.
Two months later, on 15 May 2017, Shivambu sent a similar message: “Heita… Are you winning? There is a great need for urgent intervention”, and again three days later: “Heita… Are you winning on that intervention?”
But from the messages it appears that Mulaudzi was having cashflow issues: “I’m still struggling with my private bank. It’s sitting in 32day index,” he replied.
Unfazed, Shivambu responded: “Okay cool. So it will only clear in 32 days?”
Though Mulaudzi refused to discuss the “interventions” with us, he told the Mail & Guardian last year when it published a message containing the Grand Azania bank details: “I have a contractual obligation with number of companies including Grand Azania, which I pay from time to time for consulting and advisory services.” (The messages seen by amaBhungane show that Shivambu sent two messages with the Grand Azania bank details, the first over WhatsApp and the second, two minutes later, over SMS. The message published by the M&G was the latter.)
That a more complete set of the messages now shows that Floyd Shivambu, and not his brother Brian, stood to benefit from these payments is significant. This is not only because Shivambu failed to disclose any consulting fees to Parliament, but also because it adds to the growing body of evidence that Grand Azania is a proxy for the EFF’s second-in-command.
Grand Azania is one of the companies linked to the looting of VBS Mutual Bank, which placed in liquidation last year. Although not mentioned by name in advocate Terry Motau’s Great Bank Heist report, Grand Azania allegedly received R6.2-million from loans VBS made to Brian Shivambu and his businesses. (Read Daily Maverick’s investigations here and here.)
The question is, what did Mulaudzi expect in return?
Answering that question is not easy; in part because the messages we have are incomplete and in part because even over encrypted messaging apps, Mulaudzi and Shivambu were careful about what they said.
Instead when they wanted to talk, they would meet. Between December 2016 and May 2017, we can see several meeting spots being discussed: the Royal Gardens resort near Shivambu’s home town of Malamulele, Busy Corner Imbizo Shisanyama in Midrand, the Sandton Sun hotel, and Shivambu’s rented house in Bryanston.
However, the clues that the messages provide suggest that Shivambu used his position in the EFF to open doors for Mulaudzi to deals that one or both would benefit from.
For instance, we can see that he was happy to make phonecalls and attend meetings on Mulaudzi’s behalf.
“I was able to talk to [name withheld] and he’s committed to talk when he returns from Davos…” Shivambu said, confirming that he had arranged to meet the chairman of two JSE-listed companies. “You must remind me of what we had to talk about.”
We can also see that Shivambu brought potential deals to his benefactor.
“Do you know [name withheld],” Shivambu asked Mulaudzi in May 2017, including the website address of a boutique asset management firm in Johannesburg. “One of the founders and director has asked for a meeting. It looks like their asset management division manages more than R20 billion…”
“Let’s meet them urgently,” Mulaudzi agreed.
The messages amaBhungane has seen suggest that Shivambu received covert payments from Mulaudzi and failed to declare these to Parliament.
The messages also suggest that Shivambu used his political profile for Mulaudzi’s (and possibly his own) financial gain.
South Africans will go to the polls this week where the EFF is almost certain to increase their share of the votes.
The power of leading EFF figures is going to grow, but the example of Shivambu begs the question: whose interests will they be serving?
Orlando Stadium here we come.Our President @Julius_S_Malema never addresses empty stadiums.
— Economic Freedom Fighters Gauteng (@GautengEFF) May 5, 2019