Ramaphoria’s greatest challenge: sentencing the corrupt – Ed Herbst

JOHANNESBURG — Making an example out of someone is an age old strategy in making sure everyone else knows what shouldn’t be done. It however doesn’t seem to have a place in the ANC handbook against corruption. In this case study, Ed Herbst, assesses how the ruling party has dealt with internal corrupt activities in the past, highlighting only one previous case of a conviction that lead to jail time. But that there is another opportunity on the horizon, given the upcoming judgement on ICASA chair Rubben Mohlaloga’s sentencing after a R6 million heist from the Land Bank in 2008. Because as Ramaphoria wanes, Herbst reckons something is needed to re-energise the movement. – Stuart Lowman

Ramapanther. More cartoon magic available at www.zapiro.com.

By Ed Herbst*

Chairperson of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) Rubben Mohlaloga is expected to be sentenced today in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria. He was convicted of fraud and money laundering in January. Mohlaloga‚ along with five others‚ was accused of defrauding the Land Bank of about R6 million in 2008. Mohlaloga and his accomplices transferred money from the Land Bank to an attorney’s trust account. – Icasa Chair to be sentenced today SA Government News Agency 3/4/2018

Ramaphosa is clearly an improvement on Zuma. But the hope that greeted his rise to power is beginning to dissipate. Many are beginning to lose hope. Some projections are that the ANC may fail to gain a majority next year even with Ramaphosa as leader. It seems we’re back to square one. – Barney Mthombothi Sunday Times 1/7/2018

All the indications are that Ramaphoria is waning so what can be done to rekindle and re-energise that enthusiasm?

And enthusiasm is desperately needed because, even on the job-creation front, Ramaphosa seems to be experiencing disturbing opposition.

Veteran journalist Ed Herbst

The spark it needs is the jailing of a corrupt high-profile ANC deployed cadre to buttress the contention at Davos by him that he intends to combat the pervasive corruption within his party and that his opposition to the remaining Zuptoids is resolute.

In a previous article on Biznews I analysed the difference between the way in which the National Party ostracised its convicted criminals and the way in which the ANC does everything in its power to protect them.

I also pointed out how the only ANC politician since 1994 to be swiftly investigated, tried and jailed resulting in the confiscation of assets was Cynthia Maropeng. The only reason that happened was because she stole not from the fiscus, but from her party – constituency funds – and the ANC needed to send a quick and clear message to its deployed cadres that that was not on.

At the end of August, Rubben Mohlaloga is scheduled to be sentenced – four and a half years after he was arrested – something that will presage another protracted ‘Stalingrad’ legal battle fought with your money and mine. It bears analysis because it is a classic case study of how and why the country has been reduced to junk status.

On 3 April the South African Government News Agency issued a press release breathlessly announcing that on that very day, Rubben Mohlaloga the ICASA chair and a former ANC MP, was going to be sentenced after being found guilty of fraud and money laundering relating to a R6 million Land Bank scam.

That never happened and now the hearing has been postponed until the end of August.

A little background.

Rubben Mohlaloga cut his teeth in ANC politics in Limpopo.

He was ANC Youth League deputy president from 2001 – 2004 under Malusi Gigaba and from 2004 under Fikile Mbalula until 2005 when he was expelled from the ANCYL.

In terms of the ANC’s due diligence policy this qualified him for a seat in parliament two years later and by 2008 he was chairman of the Agriculture & Land Affairs Portfolio Committee.

Ironic statement

It was in this capacity that he made the following somewhat ironic statement during a speech in parliament.

‘The Land Bank is one of our key development finance institutions, whose main mandate is to promote, facilitate and support emerging and subsistence farmers.

‘We have been concerned about the issues around the Land Bank which impaired the image and repute of the Bank.’

Ironic because he was later convicted of defrauding the Land Bank to buy, among other things, two BMWs.

July 2010 Rubben Mohlaloga joins the Department of Communications as the General Manager for Policy Development.

2 December 2012 – Mohlaloga is arrested for Land Bank fraud and released on bail of R20,000. He is made chief director at the Department of Communications but does not tell his bosses about the arrest. It is alleged that of the total of the R100 million in the Land Bank’s AgriBEE account, R34.5 million was siphoned off in this scam. The AgriBEE fund was aimed at assisting aspirant and mainly black farmers with low interest loans to buy farms.

R800,000 was allegedly used to buy two BMWs for Mohlaloga but money was also spent to buy a farm, and R60,000 was allegedly also spent on timeshare.

Price WaterHouse Cooper was employed by the Land Bank to do the forensic audit.

Once again this stellar snouting achievement ticks all the ANC’s due diligence boxes and he is proposed – thereafter – as a member of the ICASA board.

The unspeakable Dina Pule – then Communications Minister and a Snouter of Note herself – ratified this appointment despite the protests of the then DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Marian Shinn.

Pule gave notification of her decision in the Government Gazette issued on 3 July 2013 (no.36632), indicating that Mohlaloga would take up the position from 1 July 2013, for a period of four years.

Despite his pending trial for fraud, the ANC promoted Mohlaloga to the position of chairman of ICASA in December last year.

Duly convicted

Only weeks later, on 18 January this year, the Hawks issued the following press statement announcing that Mohlaloga and his fellow thieves had been duly convicted:

Following a protracted criminal matter the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crime Court has convicted four accused on Monday, January 15. The suspects, Philemon Radichaba Mohlahlane (62), Manyaba Rubben Mohlaloga (44) Dinga Rammy Nkhwashu (40) and Dingamanzi Ka Dinga (Inc.) representing Masepula Dinga Attorneys firm have been found guilty of defrauding the Land Bank of approximately R6million rand in 2008.

During January 2008, in Polokwane the accused, with the aid of the influential Mohlahlane, who was the Land Bank Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at the time conspired and transferred R6 Million into a trust account of Masepule Dinga attorneys.

The funds were transferred from Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment framework for Agriculture, Commonly known as (Agri-Bee). This was done without following due processes as Mohlahlane subverted the procedures and instructed the fund manager at Agri-Bee to authorise the said payment without supporting documents.

The fund manager who eventually turned state witness during the trial only received an application for the grant about a month after the payment was made. The said application was in relation with funding to acquire land, livestock and processing units.

After the R6 Million was received in the trust account of Masepule Dinga attorneys, the funds were distributed between the suspects and a farm was bought for R2m as well as an X5 BMW and a BMW 118i for Mohlaloga, who was a member of Parliament and the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of Agriculture at the time. R2, 2m was transferred to the business accounts of Masepule Dinga attorneys and used for personal benefit of Nkhwashu.

Contrary to what the application stated, the money was never used for the benefit of farm workers and/or upcoming farmers, but rather for the accused’s personal benefit. The group was arrested by the Hawks’ Serious Corruption Crime Unit in October 2012 after a case was opened at Brooklyn police station culminating in relentless investigations thereafter.

The accused have been found guilty of fraud and money laundering in contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, which amongst other things prohibits unlawful acquisition, possession or use of proceeds of crime.

Deliberations of mitigating factors are expected to be heard in March 8, and sentencing in April 3, 2018.

The Acting National Head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Lieutenant General, Yolisa Matakata, has welcomed this landmark conviction and she has also extended her appreciation to the investigating team and the justice system for a job well done.

It was clearly this press release which prompted the South African Government News Agency to issue a follow-up press release on 3 April announcing that the accused were due for sentencing that day.

We are now told by Phindi Mjonondwane, the NPA’S Gauteng spokesperson that sentencing proceedings will start on August 28. This will be the next step in a grinding ‘Stalingrad’ court battle fought with your money and mine. In the meantime the paid holiday of Rubben Mohlaloga continues as it does throughout the civil service all the time and all the time at the expense of the taxpayer.

Low-hanging fruit

Look, the ANC after its successful Arms Deal scam to fund its election campaigns – ask Andrew Feinstein, he’ll tell you – was looking around for more speculating opportunities and the Land Bank was obviously seen by Loot-freely House as low-hanging fruit.

The raid by Mohlaloga and his fellow thieves on the Land Bank was the second such criminal enterprise.

For more information on the first, read Banking on Change by Helena Dolny (Viking/ Allen Lane, 2001), pages 172 – 175 in R W Johnson’s South Africa’s Brave New World – The Beloved Country since the End of Apartheid (Allen Lane, 2009) and pages 155-156 in Rhoda Kadalie’s book In Your Face – Passionate Conversations about People and Politics (Tafelberg, 2009).

Kadalie made the point that the first multi-million rand Land Bank tranche  after Helena Dolny was driven out went to Pamodzi Investment Holdings which had Manne Dipico and Kgalema Motlanthe among its shareholders.

As I finished writing this article about Rubben Mohlaloga, the news broke that Jacob Zuma had suppressed, for more than a year, an SIU report about corruption involving R1.2 billion, at the heart of which was the current ANC chief whip in the Gauteng legislature and former Health MEC, Brian Hlongwa. The only reason we know about this is because the ANC was compelled to release the SIU report following a Promotion of Access to Information request by Corruption Watch and Section 27.

Ramaphoria is fading fast and the clear attempt by the ANC to cover up the Brian Hlongwa R1.2 billion corruption scandal and its attempts to keep Rubben Mohlaloga out of jail and on the state payroll, provide a telling example of why that is happening.

Don’t hold your breath – John Block was arrested for fraud in 2010, sentenced to 15 years in the slammer in 2016 and, with the fervent support of the ANC, is still a free man.

Can Cyril Ramaphosa change that mindset and that de facto ANC policy?

  • Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.