The March issue of Noseweek reveals the existence of an “extremely shocking telephone conversation leaked to them via WhatsApp”. They report that other members of the media and members of parliament were sent the same audio conversation.
The recording reveals an alleged conversation between a Zulu woman and a younger man she calls Bonga, in which she outlines her plan, and his role in it, in what’s believed to be November 2016 to “get control of all [KwaZulu-Natal] KZN school feeding schemes – so that she can divert a big chunk of the budget for those schemes into her own pockets”.
Part of the scheme would have allegedly involved forcing anyone involved in the feeding of children in schemes to undergo accreditation and compulsory training, to be provided by a company owned by the woman in the recording.
“The woman speaks with authority, spends time staying in the presidential compound at Nkandla, and is so closely connected to President Jacob Zuma and the KZN ANC leadership that she believes she can rely on their intervention to support her devious money-making plans,” writes Noseweek.
Although many people appear to believe the woman in question is Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, Noseweek’s investigations revealed that the company she mentions, House of Success (registered in October last year), is controlled by a different woman, who is close to President Zuma.
She is named as Priscilla Nonkululeko Mhlongo, a Pietermaritzburg businesswoman and mother to two of President Zuma’s daughters.
At one point in the recording, the woman instructs the younger man to get everything in place for her money-making plan, including unofficial meetings with top ANC officials in the province, who are named in the recording, so that she can present her plan to “uBaba”.
Mhlongo has catering and restaurant businesses, including a controversial contract that was awarded to her several years ago to feed members of the provincial legislature. That R1.3 million tender was not awarded to her properly, it was revealed in 2010.
When Noseweek called Mhlongo for comment, she hurriedly declared she had no knowledge of the recording and hung up before the journalist could fill her in on its details.
The DA’s shadow minister of social development, Bridget Masango, told Noseweek: “These revelations of someone using her proximity and access to government resources to enrich herself inspire unspeakable outrage. The fact that this person can conjure up a whole scheme to ‘close’ the entire school nutrition value chain for herself through House of Success is bad enough – that the KZN premier and ANC chairman might have agreed to change the province’s policies for that express purpose is simply beyond comprehension.”
Noseweek reports that the DA plans to table questions in Parliament on the issue.
Retired educationalist Les Stanley said the plot, if true, would be a “travesty”.
“This would be greed at the expense of the poorest of the poor. The cooks at schools are often illiterate or semi-literate family members who are earning an honest buck. They cook on three-legged pots in the open. If they suddenly needed to be accredited they would be unemployed,” he was quoted as saying.