The chief executive officer (CEO) of the company accused of trying to score a quick R5-billion from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) irregularly, says three ANC cabinet ministers have, through their associates, offered to push the deal through in exchange for a R500-million bribe.
Thuja Capital CEO Mthunzi Mdwaba said the corrupt ministers demanded 10% of the R5-billion to help him to pull the deal off.
The repugnant ministers, whose names are known to Sunday World, cannot be named for legal reasons.
Speaking to Sunday World Engage this week about the widely reported jobs creation deal that has seen employment and labour director-general Thobile Lamati resign, Mdwaba said he was approached by three high-ranking government officials who solicited the bribe, claiming they were sent by the implicated ministers .
“I said ‘10% is R500-million’. That is, like, three or four projects. And I must give it to ministers? I said no; please wait. Are you crazy’?”
Mdwaba said the middlemen negotiated down to 5%, but he was still not persuaded.
“I said ‘no, what value are you adding to the project? I’m confused’.”
He said the negotiations went to and fro for a month, adding that on the other hand, he was trying to fight the dispute legally through lawyers and speaking to people who could facilitate a different win-win outcome for all parties.
“I wanted a solution. Initially, I didn’t want to embarrass my government. I really didn’t. I’d rather find a solution that is good and is a win-win for everybody, especially now going to elections next year.”
Mdwaba said he belongs to a school of thought that still has faith in the ANC as a liberation movement, even though it may be a “stupid” belief.
“Some of us are stupid because we still hold on to this thing of liberation, even when we see that it’s going wrong. But I was told if I pay this 10% and I pay the gateway fees, all my problems are gone.”
He said gateway fees referred to bribes.
In addition to the gateway fees, Mdwaba said he was also stalked by “fake” officers of the elite crime-fighting Hawks unit, who claimed that employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi had opened a criminal case against him and Lamati. He claimed when Lamati confronted Nxesi, the minister shed a tear. “The DG actually told me that he asked Nxesi about these Hawks, and he cried”.
According to Mdwaba, Nxesi’s tears were fake, saying that he previously lied to the nation about erecting a fire pool at the former president Jacob Zuma’s homestead in Nkandla.
“This man is a chronic liar. So he cries. The fake Hawks were calling my house, and I called my son to listen. I said to these fake Hawks ‘well, if you’re the real Hawks, I suggest you come in and arrest me. If you were with me now, I’d show you the middle finger’.”
Sabelo Mali, the spokesperson for Nxesi, said the minister refuted and rejected the allegations with contempt they deserve.
One of the implicated ministers said: “I don’t know anything about the deal. It is also the first time I know that Mthunzi owns a company called Thuja Capital.”
The minister continued: “It is possible that people threw my name in to give credibility to their bribe claims. Mthunzi must tell us about the intermediaries so that I can ask them why they used my name.”
An associate of one of the ministers implicated in bribery claims said: “Anyone with such a case of bribery must act and report such to the law enforcement agencies. The minister is not going to be part of the mud and dirty games being played.”
The third minister whose name was mentioned said through a spokesperson that he dismisses Mdwaba’s claims with the contempt it deserves.
Nxesi told parliament last week that the project, which was meant to create 750 000 jobs through investment from the UIF as seed capital, was suspended towards the end of last year, pending an investigation.
The project involved the department, UIF, and state-owned Productivity SA, then chaired by Mdwaba and Thuja Holdings.
“The outcome of the investigation makes us believe that we took the correct decision by suspending that project. And as such, we have saved the country R5-billion.”
“It is the outcome of the investigation that led to the chairperson of Productivity SA being relieved of his duties,” he said. He said the department planned to apply for the legal clarity of the Thuja agreement in court and possibly set it aside.
Among the issues raised was that no due diligence had been conducted. In addition, Thuja Capital was freshly registered in December last year when Lamati signed the deal.
However, Mdwaba disagreed, saying due diligence was conducted, and when it was completed, the project was taken to the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) for a second opinion on due diligence.
The IDC supported the project, he said, adding that the agency even wrote a letter saying the project resonates with it.
“The IDC said ‘we would like to co-invest in Thuja because it resonates with us’. I have the letter. They want me to onboard their companies into my ecosystem, which is a so-called corrupt embezzlement scheme.”
However, the agency also clarified that they could not conduct due diligence on companies they did not fund.
He also said that after all that was done, Lamati gave his subordinates four months to ask whatever questions they wanted. However, he was eventually “embarrassed” by the lack of feedback. He said the DG threatened to sign the deal that Friday, and only then did questions come up.
“Then he said, ‘I want you to finish this process on Sunday’. On Sunday, the day he signed, one of these irresponsible newspapers said it was a midnight deal. He has been begging them for four months to finalise the process.”