KZN ANC leader Mabuyakhulu to face music over R28m jazz festival blues

07 February 2018 - 17:44 By Bongani Mthethwa
Former MEC for Economic Development Mike Mabuyakhulu has been arrested and is expected to be charged with fraud, corruption and money laundering.
Former MEC for Economic Development Mike Mabuyakhulu has been arrested and is expected to be charged with fraud, corruption and money laundering.

The curious case of a no-show businessman‚ a smiling ANC leader and a R28-million failed jazz festival played out in the Durban Commercial Crime court on Wednesday.

Durban businessman Mabheleni Ntuli and former KZN economic development and tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu have been cited among the five main role-players in a fraud‚ corruption and money laundering case relating to failed jazz festival five years ago that cost taxpayers R28-million.

The other main role-players are Desmond Golding‚ the former head of the KZN department of development and tourism‚ Ceasar Walter Mkhize‚ the owner of Soft Skills Communications‚ Maqhoboza Traders and Shaka Holding‚ and Nothando Zungu‚ a member of Soft Skills Communications and sole member of Ishashalazi Production.

All five‚ together with four other people and seven companies‚ are facing fraud‚ corruption and money laundering charges relating to the multi-million figure paid by the KZN government in 2012 for the North Sea Jazz Festival to have been held in 2013‚ but which never happened.

Mabuyakhulu‚ 46‚ who was the first in the dock in the Durban Commercial Crimes Court on Wednesday‚ looked relaxed and even allowed journalists to take snaps of him. The former politician is no stranger to fraud charges. Fraud and corruption charges were dropped against him and five others in August 2012 after they were linked to a R144-million "amigos" corruption case involving businessman Gaston Savoi.

However‚ Ntuli‚ who has been charged together with his company‚ Super Size Investment‚ was not present in court.

Ntuli was reported to have splurged millions of rand - paid to him for memorial services for Nelson Mandela - on luxury cars‚ jewellery and high-end clothing. The R18-million was paid to him by an events management company owned by businesswoman Carol Bouwer‚ who enlisted Ntuli as a subcontractor to supply infrastructure for memorial services for Mandela in December 2013 across Mpumalanga.

Police said Ntuli - who has denied splurging the money on lavish expenses - wasn't in court because they were unable to track him down.

The accused were arrested by members by the members of the KZN Hawks Serious Corruption Investigation Unit for allegedly unduly benefiting from the failed jazz festival.

According to the indictment‚ the concept of the jazz festival was proposed to the KZN economic development and tourism department by a Netherlands-based company‚ MPM Productions and International Projects. The company was solely established to bring the North Sea Jazz Festival to South Africa from the Netherlands.

The department allegedly agreed to fund it on condition that the Dutch company formed a joint venture with a local company‚ Soft Skills Communications‚ which‚ according to the indictment‚ is owned by Mkhize.

However‚ according to the Hawks‚ the agreement was allegedly altered by the department and the local company without the knowledge of the Dutch partners.

When the change was discovered‚ Netherlands-based Mojo Concerts BV‚ the intellectual property owners of Jazz Festival‚ cancelled the agreement with Soft Skills Communication.

Hawks spokesman Captain Simphiwe Mhlongo said the cancellation of the agreement meant that the jazz festival could not continue as planned. However despite the cancellation a full amount of R28.5-million was paid to the local company. He said the matter was reported to the Hawks who kick-started the investigation in earnest.

“The investigation confirmed allegations of corruption and possible collusion leading to the arrest of the six suspects.”

Mhlongo said the investigation had taken a long time because they wanted to be thorough and make sure that by the time they arrested the suspects they had tangible evidence.

The arrests come weeks after newly-elected ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule formally suspended the provincial executive committee and replaced them with an interim structure‚ convened by Mabuyakhulu and coordinated by his predecessor and former ANC provincial chairman Sihle Zikalala.

However‚ Mabuyakhulu who was aligned to the CR17 campaign‚ has come under fire from Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma supporters.

There was a lot of arguing in court about the amount of bail Mabuyakhulu‚ his former HOD‚ who is accused number one‚ and Mkhize‚ who is accused number three‚ had to pay. Prosecutor Advocate Magwanyana wanted it set at R100‚000 because of the seriousness of the charges against them.

But it was later agreed that bail be set at R50‚000 for the trio after Magistrate Christobel Mazibuko argued that bail should not be viewed as a punishment.