Jacob Zuma's family in squabble over money owed on tender

22 November 2019 - 12:02 By Zimasa Matiwane and Kgothatso Madisa
Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, Bongi Ngema and Nonkululeko Mhlongo, right, who is at the centre of a dispute over money from a tender with Zuma's nephew, Zobaphi. Image: Khaya Ngwenya /Gallo Images
Thobeka Madiba-Zuma, Bongi Ngema and Nonkululeko Mhlongo, right, who is at the centre of a dispute over money from a tender with Zuma's nephew, Zobaphi. Image: Khaya Ngwenya /Gallo Images
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Former president Jacob Zuma has been caught in a bitter battle between his fiancée and nephew over a tender business deal gone wrong.

Zuma's nephew, Zobaphi, accused Zuma's longtime fiancée, Nonkululeko Mhlongo, of swindling him out of at least R500,000 due to him after the two scored a tender to build water pump stations.

Mhlongo says she doesn't owe the young Zuma a cent and labelled him a "liar" and a "devil".

Zobaphi reported the matter to Zuma, but the former president failed to convince his other half to make good on their agreement.

Zobaphi told The Sowetan that Zuma advised him to pursue legal action to recoup the funds from Mhlongo.

"This matter was reported to ubaba by myself and a gentleman whom we contracted. When his intervention did not yield any progress, he gave me permission to use whatever means necessary to recoup the money owed to me and a worker," Zobaphi said.

Mhlongo is a Pietermaritzburg-based businesswoman and mother of two of Zuma's children.

She was approached by Zobaphi to bid for business to sub-contract in a water pumps construction project.

Mhlongo's company, Bucebo General Trading, provided "brick works" for Cmc di Ravenna, an Italian construction company, on two water pumping projects, Mdungela and Mkhalazi pumps, in Nkandla.

The contract between Mhlongo and Zobaphi, which The Sowetan has seen, states that profit or loss sharing must be 50/50 between the two. However, he said he was only compensated for supervising daily work during the project.

"I am also still owed about R15,000 for the use of my bakkie. We used it for 10 weeks," he said.

Patrick Khanyile, a human resources manager at Cmc di Ravenna, confirmed he had met the former president with Zobaphi twice to ask for his intervention.

"The former president said he washed his hands and we must do what we need to do. MaMhlongo then told us she paid the money into Zoba's wife's account, but his wife died long ago and the proof of payment she showed us is of an account that does not exist," he said.

Khanyile said Cmc di Ravenna had paid Mhlongo all the money owed to her [R1,796,762.04]. He estimated Zobaphi's share at between R500,000 and R600,000.

Zobaphi said he was shocked when Mhlongo told him in January there was no money.

When contacted by The Sowetan, Mhlongo denied Zobaphi's claims, arguing that she was owed money because she ran the project from her own account.

"I owe him nothing. In fact, the project owes me. He's a bloody liar. He's the devil. I carried the losses for the whole project. He's lying and I'm very hurt," she said.

Mhlongo said they were initially meant to get more than R1.7m for the contract but had received far less as it was later decided by the main contractor that all the sub-contractors would be paid the same.

She said this meant that the calculations of just over R1.7m that they had based the project on had changed, and they now had to work with amounts below R1.3m.

"We ran into problems because it meant  the calculations we had had to change because they said all labourers would get the same. Our calculations were very wrong," she said.

She said this meant the company was going to run the project at a loss.

"We could not even afford general workers' salaries and I had to put in my own money," she said.

"I do not have the exact amount [that I put in] but I did. I was not getting anything from the project. I used my kids' money to fund it. I was paying general workers from my own pocket."

Mhlongo said she regrets working with Zobaphi, who she said knows nothing about business.

 I should have done this work myself because I qualified. This is the last thing. He's banking on hopes of getting millions because he's not in business. He doesn't understand  a business can run at a loss," she said.

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