Markus Jooste, Valumax, Mashatile – R5bn Tambo Springs joins corrupt dots

Birds of a feather tend to flock together. So when News24’s Mashatile Unmasked investigation into SA’s deputy president turned up dodgy payments from a company called Valumax Projects, alarm bells started ringing for Francois Nortje. The Port of Gauteng developer explains in this explosive interview how he was courted by Valumax founding director Francois Bekker, whose sole intention was to connect him with former Steinhoff executives who co-own his stinky ANC-backed competitor down the road. Nortje joins the dots and concludes Markus Jooste and his pals are only walking free despite their massive fraud because they’ve paid off ANC bigwigs. And all roads, he says, lead to the proposed R5bn Tambo Springs development. – Alec Hogg

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Introductions
  • 02:08 – Alec Hogg outlines the News24’s Mashatile Unmasked story
  • 04:25 – Francois Nortje on Valumax executive Francois Bekker
  • 05:30 – Nortje on Port of Gauteng and Tambo Springs
  • 07:56 – On skulduggery at Tambo Springs
  • 09:05 – On former Steinhoff COO Danie van der Merwe
  • 12:11 – On Francois Bekker’s connection to Tambo Springs
  • 14:33 – On Markus Jooste
  • 18:10 – Nortje connects the dots between Mashatile, Valumax, Steinhoff and Tambo Springs
  • 19:52 – Concludes

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Transcript of the edited interview with Francois Nortje, developer of the Port of Gauteng

Alec Hogg: News 24 has been investigating SA’s deputy president Paul Mashatele for some time, revealing serious allegations against him. What caught our attention this morning is the latest expose’ and angle involving Valumax Projects, a multi-billion-rand company. Among the executive directors of Valumax is Jacques Schindehutte, a well known South African business personality previously in high-ranking positions at Telkom (COO) and ABSA (CFO). The company has been accused of serious misconduct, and today we’re talking to Francois Nortje to delve deeper into the matter. From today’s News24 report you are able to make a connetion that highlights Steinhoff’s involvement, adding another layer to this substantial story.

The primary focus of the News24 story has been on payments made to Paul Mashatele’s lovers. Specifically, the report today featured his former lover Gugu Nkosi, who received R900 000 from Teddy Greaver, an executive director of Valumax. The property developer Valumax itself has been in the spotlight for contributing significant amounts to the ANC (R29.5m). Executive director Greaver admitted to News24 that he paid the money, via four instalments, into Gugu Nkosi’s business account.

Our focus today, is primarily on Valumax, a company claiming to practice ethical business. This company has received numerous multi billion rand government housing tenders in various parts of Gauteng. It subsequently expanded outside SA’s borders even boasts of a $150 million shopping centre in Angola. But what intrigues us the connection of another Valumax director, Francois Bekker, with a R5bn allegedly corrupt development. Francois, how did you come to know Bekker?

Francois Nortje: I’ve been in the property sector for 35 years, involved in various aspects including buying and selling land. I’ve known Francois Bekker for about 25 years, though the nature of our relationship has been fairly casual. We haven’t visited each other’s homes or offices but have been in touch sporadically. I have a vast network of contacts on my phone, and when we launched the Port of Gauteng in late 2019, I sent out a brief clip about it. Francois Bekker reached out to me after that with a series of questions. We’ve had conversations occasionally, but it was a call in February 2020 that took me by surprise. He invited me to Stellenbosch to meet a friend of his who turns out to be the beneficial owner of a large portion of Tambo Springs.

Read more: Steinhoff exec who “acted on Jooste’s instructions” jailed for 3 1/2 years by German court

Alec Hogg: Let’s pause for a moment. Can you explain what the Port of Gauteng and Tambo Springs are?

Francois Nortje: Both are planned inland ports in Gauteng. Tambo Springs is further out than the Port of Gauteng and currently has no services. There is a need for an access road called the K148 to be built around the two Total filling stations for accessibility. In February 2020, my company and I launched an interim interdict to halt the construction of this road, citing irregularities in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), including a manipulated Wetland Report influenced by the Steinhoff Group.

Alec Hogg: Clarify for us the location of these proposed inland ports in relation to the Joburg/Durban N3 and the Total petrol stations.

Francois Nortje: As you drive along the N3 from Johannesburg to Durban, Port of Gauteng is on the left side, closer to Johannesburg. Tambo Springs is located around the Total filling stations on the right. It spans about 2 000 hectares.

Alec Hogg: You’ve mentioned allegations of misconduct at Tambo Springs. As the owner of Port of Gauteng, this directly affects you.

Francois Nortje: Correct. In August the year before 2020, we discovered flaws in the EIA for the K148 road that is needed to give access to Tambo Springs. Despite our communications, the authorities ignored us. Then we saw the tender documents and this confirmed our suspicions. After this, I received the invitation from Francois Bekker to meet Danie van der Merwe, the former COO of Steinhoff, who Bekker said is the beneficial owner of part of Tambo Springs.

Alec Hogg: What was your reaction to this?

Francois Nortje: I was shocked. It dawned on me that the land was divided into several parcels owned by different companies, all previously directed by Advocate Doep Du Plessis. another Steinhoff director and confidant of the former CEO Markus Jooste. When I found out that Darnie van der Merwe was involved, it became apparent that there was a link to Steinhoff.

Alec Hogg: Tell us more about this link to Steinhoff.

Francois Nortje: We have evidence that Advocate Du Plessis influenced the Wetland Report for the EIA, causing it to be flawed. Despite presenting this to the Gauteng government, they keep defending the project. It raises questions about why they are supporting a project with clear flaws and potential corruption.

Alec Hogg: What about Francois Bekker’s involvement in all this?

Francois Nortje: Francois Bekker simply served as the conduit for the invitation to Stellenbosch. He thought I would find Danie van der Merwe, the ex-COO of Steinhoff, agreeable, which I found shocking. His involvement raised more red flags about the integrity of the Tambo Springs project and the people backing it.

Alec Hogg: So there are more questions than answers at this stage.

Francois Nortje: Absolutely. There are many dots to connect, and while I’d rather not speculate, it’s important for people to see the bigger picture. The flaws in the project and the parties involved raise serious questions that demand answers.

Read more: Paul Mashatile: The internal player

Alec Hogg: Why aren’t certain questions being asked?

Francois Nortje: For instance, why hasn’t Markus Jooste been arrested in South Africa? Or those close to the fraud at Steinhoff. I saw Danie van der Marwe six months ago, casually having lunch in Rosebank. These people seem to be walking free. I’ve never trusted Markus Jooste. My background in horse racing taught me how much time that industry requires. It seemed impossible for him to manage 2,000 stores and own 200 racehorses at the same time. I’ve never owned Steinhoff shares, but my sister and friends have lost substantial amounts of money. I wrote to the Reserve Bank last October and informed them of suspicious assets that need to be preserved.

Alec Hogg: And the directors of these Tambo Springs companies?

Francois Nortje: Yes, there’s been some shuffling. Advocate Doep du Plessis resigned as a director, then one Maria Martelena du Plessis took over. And a guy from Onrus, Hermanus also named Jooste, joined the board. It seems more than coincidental that these individuals share the same postal address in Hermanus. I think investigative journalists need to dig deeper into this.

Alec Hogg: Any upcoming court cases?

Francois Nortje: Yes, the ANC is fully aware of what’s going on. We have a court case next year, and another this Friday. They applied for leave to appeal 265 days after the judgement, despite the 15-day limit. We’re fighting a flawed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for this road project, one compromised by Advocate du Plessis.

Alec Hogg: How do you think all these dots connect?

Francois Nortje: It appears that Markus Jooste and his associates from Steinhoff have the ANC on their payroll, much like Valumax. That’s why they’re pushing for these projects. The EIA of Tambo Springs is deeply flawed. It seems that Steinhoff has some ANC members in their pocket, which might explain why Danie van der Merwe and Markus Jooste are still free.

Alec Hogg: What’s at stake with the Tambo Springs project?

Francois Nortje: It’s a 2 200-hectare site, with about 1 700 hectares developable. The project is surrounded by water and includes 500 hectares of wetlands. At R300 rand per square meter, the land’s estimated value is R5 billion rand. The K148 road is crucial for the project to proceed, which is why the Gauteng government if being encouraged by the Steinhoff guys to keep pushing it despite the deeply flawed EIA.

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