Raymond Joseph
16 minute read
3 Mar 2021
4:11 pm

How lottery grant was used to pay for board member’s luxury home

Raymond Joseph

Millions of rands from a lottery grant to build an old age home in Mpumalanga were used to pay for a luxury home on a sprawling estate in North West.

Picture: Raymond Joseph

  • R5 million was paid towards a house for William Huma, a National Lotteries Commission (NLC) board member, by an organisation that received an NLC grant.
  • The organisation had been dormant for 15 years but nevertheless was awarded R27 million by the NLC.
  • Payments totalling R2 million were made to Huma in late 2016 by Upbrand Properties, a company associated with the suspended NLC COO Phillemon Letwaba, just months before Huma was appointed to the NLC board.
  • Huma recently applied for the vacant position of board chairperson of the NLC but was not shortlisted.

Millions of rands from a Lottery grant to build an old age home in Mpumalanga were used to pay for a luxury home on a sprawling estate in North West Province, which was purchased by a company belonging to a board member of the NLC.

Within a week of the NLC approving a R20 million grant in 2017 to Matieni Community Centre to build the old age home in the rural village of Marapyane, R5 million was paid by Matieni to attorneys handling the sale of the luxury home in Rustenberg.

Matieni has been dormant and non-compliant for almost 15 years, according to the Department of Social Development (DSD) register of non-profit organisations. The NPO was hijacked and used to apply to the NLC for funding, as was the case with Denzhe Primary CareWar_RNA and Mushumo Ushavha Zwanda, which all received multi-million-rand Lottery grants to build old age homes.

The payment to the lawyers by Matieni was made for the sale of the Rustenburg property to BDH Group (Pty) Limited, of which NLC board member William Huma is the sole director.

The shares of BDH Group are owned by the BDH Trust, of which Huma and his sister, Sylvia Tryphine Ntshole, are both trustees. One of the stated aims of the trust is to “provide funding and support for the educational needs of children from rural communities”.

Huma is one of 40 people who applied for the vacant position of board chairperson of the NLC. Earlier this week Parliament’s Trade, Industry and Competition Portfolio Committee restarted the stalled process of shortlisting candidates, after it was derailed last year. The ANC proposed Huma as one its candidates for the post, but he did not make the final shortlist of eight.

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Huma confirmed a R5 million payment for the Rustenburg house, but said he was not aware that it had come via Matieni, or that it was from an NPO that has received Lottery funding. He said that as far as he was aware, the payment was made by a person who had bought three of his companies.

Google satellite view of a luxury house in North West which was partly paid with money that was supposed to be used to build an old age home. Picture from Google Maps

Our investigation also probed two separate payments to Huma in late 2016 for R1 million each, made by Upbrand Properties just months before he was appointed to the NLC’s board on 1 April 2017.

Huma says that both payments were instalments on the purchase of Just Cuban, an upmarket restaurant and music venue in Pretoria, by Daisy Letwaba, one of suspended NLC Chief Operating Officer Phillemon Letwaba’s two wives.

In a response to questions posed by GroundUp, Huma said: “In the interest of equitable and accurate reporting, I trust that you will mention in your report that these transactions were concluded between private citizens and their companies and were not related to my role as a board member of the NLC. These transactions were either negotiated or took place prior to my involvement with the NLC.”

The mystery of the R2 million payments

The first payment from Upbrand to Huma was made on on 23 November 2016, the day that Upbrand received a deposit of R3.35 million from Denzhe Primary Care. Denzhe is controlled by attorney Lesley Ramulifho, whose offices were raided by the Special Investigating Unit as part of an investigation into corruption involving NLC grants. Before the payment from Denzhe, Upbrand had a debit balance of R117.61 in its bank account. At the time, Upbrand’s sole director was Johannes Letwaba, the brother of Phillemon Letwaba.

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The second payment to Huma from Upbrand was on 2 December 2016, a day after the SA Youth Movement (SAYM) deposited R3.5 million into Upbrand’s bank account. The NLC has given multi-million grants to SAYM for a drug rehabilitation centre in Nelspruit and an old age home in the Free State. Three years later neither are completed. Before the payment from SAYM, Upbrand had a credit balance of R5,803.92 in its bank account.

The mystery of the Matieni payment

Matieni Community Centre, based in a rural part of Limpopo, was first registered on the DSD register of non-profit organisations in 2002. It has been dormant and non-compliant for almost 15 years. All the original office bearers of the NPO are still registered on the DSD database.

In a written response via his lawyer to questions about the payment for the Rustenburg property, Huma said: “I entered into a transaction with Mr Lufuno Moses Maise, who purchased my professional service/business and management consulting companies for R10,000,000.”

Maise is not registered with DSD as an office bearer of Matieni.

“The deposit was in the amount of R5,000,000 and was paid on 23 October 2017 [the date that Matieni paid R5 million to the attorneys handling the sale of the Rustenburg home].The remaining balance is yet to be paid in full,” Huma said, now more than three years after the transaction.

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“At the time of purchase, Mr Maise was buying the companies through his own name and did not alert me to his association with the Matieni Community Centre NPO. I understood that Mr Maise was purchasing the companies for himself.”

Huma says that the three companies he sold to Maise were Yarona Creative Management Services (Pty) Ltd; Andani HR Consulting (Pty) Ltd; and Batho Pele Technology (Pty) Ltd. Maise is not – and has never been – registered as a director of any of these companies on the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC) records. CIPC only records directorships and not shareholders.

Huma, the sole director of Batho-Pele, is still registered as “active” in CIPC records. The records also list him as the sole “active” director of Yarons, and him and his sister, Sylvia Ntoshoane, as “active” co-directors of Adoni.

Tracking down the mysterious Mr Maise

Huma supplied GroundUp with contact details for Maise. But when we called the phone number provided, the person who answered denied that he was Maise. Soon after we told Huma that the number he had supplied was incorrect, GroundUp received an SMS from the number requesting that questions about Matieni be sent to an attorney, with an email address supplied.

The attorney later responded in an email in which he copied Huma, denying that Maise was one of his clients.

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“We wish to place on record that we are not acting on behalf of Mr Lufuno Maise as we were not given instructions to act on behalf of the aforesaid person,” the attorney said in an email.

Asked if he had reported the payments from Matieni to the NLC board, Huma replied: “As I was not aware that Mr Maise was paying from the bank account of the Matieni Community Centre NPO, it was not necessary for me to disclose the payment to the board as this would be a transaction between two private citizens not involving the NPO or the NLC.”

How the NLC gave R27 million to a dormant organisation

Matieni has received funding grants of nearly R27 million from the NLC, with the first R20 million allocated in October 2017. The most recent grant of R3.97 million was paid in May 2019.

Two directors of Matieni told GroundUp that the NPO had “stopped operating in 2006”. Both said that the organisation had never applied for Lottery funding and were “shocked” to discover how much it had received.

Judith Singo, who is still registered with DSD as an office bearer, said she knew nothing about any Lottery funding … “I do not even know of an old age home in Marapyane’”. Singo said she did not know Maise, adding that all the Matieni office bearers had been women.

The R5 million paid to the Rustenburg attorneys came from an FNB account, but Singo said Matieni had not banked with FNB when it was still operational.

Ntoghedzeni Mabasa, another office bearer still registered with the DSD, said the organisation had “stopped working in 2006 and has not been functioning since then”. She said she knew “nothing about Lottery funding” and also confirmed that the organisation had not banked with FNB.

The grants to Matieni were all via proactive funding, which differs from the NLC’s normal funding process. Instead of being application-driven, the NLC, its board or the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition can identify “worthy” projects to fund.

The NLC has proactively funded six old age homes in rural areas in six provinces. But though grants totalling tens of millions of rands were paid for the old age homes, none are yet completed or operational.

A visit by GroundUp to the old age home in Marapyane — which received its first tranche of R20 million in October 2017 — in December 2019 revealed that construction was incomplete and the site appeared to have been abandoned. A source in Marapyane said last week that there was “no activity [on the site] at the moment and there hasn’t been for a long time.”

Living in Lottery-funded lap of luxury

The Rustenburg home purchased by Huma’s company, BDH (Pty) Ltd., for R6.8 million, is the last word in luxury. Set on a sprawling 8,964 sq metre property in an upmarket, heavily treed suburb a few kilometres from Rustenburg, the property was originally advertised for sale for R30 million.

It has at least six bedrooms, a private cinema, an infinity pool and an underground wine cellar and squash court. The property, Portion 3 of Farm Montengoelu 398, was sold by the Rossouw Family Trust. The previous owner had his own private helicopter and there is a landing area as well as a cottage where the always-on-call pilot lived.

There is no bond on the property, suggesting it was paid for in cash. It is one of several properties registered in the name either of the BDH Group or of the BDH Trust. Huma and his sister, Sylvia Nshoane, are trustees of the trust.

A source informed us that the Rustenburg property is used as a weekend and holiday getaway by Huma. His permanent private residence is a luxury home abutting a golf course in the upmarket suburb of Waterkloof in Pretoria.

Who is William Huma?

Huma, an advocate, is politically connected and played a leading role in the ANC in Tshwane during Nelson Mandela’s presidency.

Besides serving on the NLC’s board, Huma also holds several key board committee posts, including chairperson of the NLC’s Human Capital, Social and Ethics Committee. He also serves on boards of several state-owned entities, according to his CV in the 2018-19 annual report of state-owned Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA), where he is chairman of the interim board. Another top position he still held late last year was as chairperson of the Audit and Risks Committee in the Office of the Chief Justice of South Africa.

William Huma. Picture: NLC website

He became embroiled in controversy in 2004 when he was suspended as chairperson of the cash-strapped Road Accident Fund (RAF) “amid a litany of allegations over the financial, administrative and operational running of the organisation”. He subsequently resigned and took up a position on the board of a black empowerment company. A joint statement by the RAF and Huma at the time said he had been relieved of his duties as chairperson of the fund and its committees, but not because of corruption or dishonesty.

He is a director of 16 companies, according to CIPC records. These include companies involved in finance, investment, technology, energy and mining.

How Upbrand is linked to Matieni and Phillemon Letwaba

When GroundUp first reported about a conflict of interest because of the involvement of Upbrand as a service provider for a Lottery-funded rehabilitation centre, Phillemon Letwaba responded in an email denying that any members of his family were involved in the company.

“I have checked with all my family members and none of them is a director of Upbrand Properties and this information you can check it with CIPC directly,” Letwaba said via email.

A company search at the time revealed that Johannes Letwaba was a director of Upbrand Properties from December 2016 until he resigned in March 2017. His cousin’s wife, Keneilwe Maboa, was then appointed as a director, but had also resigned by the time Letwaba sent the email.

At the time of Letwaba’s email response to GroundUp, his first cousin, Kenneth Sithole was the sole director of Upbrand. Sithole resigned his directorship on 21 July 2020, the same day Sthembiso “Jim” Skosana was appointed the company’s sole director.

But bank statements leaked to GroundUp for an Upbrand FNB account reveal that Upbrand was not only involved in directly paying for material, wages and equipment for the Matieni old age project, but also for other lottery-funded old age homes. This suggests that Upbrand was directly involved in the administration of these projects. The statements also revealed numerous deposits – ranging from R35,000 to a few thousand rand – to an Upbrand Standard Bank account from the company’s FNB account.

The bank statements reflect deposits of over R5.6 million by SAYM, which has received over R51 million in Lottery grants for a variety of projects, to Upbrand. Another Lottery-funded old age home in KwaZulu-Natal, which is yet to be completed, made deposits totalling over R3.85 million into the Upbrand FNB account. And almost R300,000 was deposited by a hijacked NPO that has received R26 million to build an old age home in Limpopo. GroundUp reported recently that the site has been abandoned.

The bank statements also link Phillemon Letwaba’s family directly to Upbrand. They show how the company paid millions to Letwaba Energy, Just Cuban and PR Letwaba. The company also contributed towards the construction of a luxury house built in Marapyane, predating the old age home Lottery grant.

These payments towards the house include a R100,000 roof slab for the house, R90,493 for decor, R126,560 for trees and R33,200 to a company called Mystique Mirrors.

Other payments by Upbrand, marked on the bank statements as “Marapyane house”, total over R231,000. There were also numerous payments for “material”, artisans who worked on the house, palisade fencing, paving, “water solution” and waterproofing.

There are also several payments of over R61,000 for “CCTV Nkandla”. Letwaba refers to his house in Marapyane as “Nkandla” (the name used for President Jacob Zuma’s home in the village of Nkandla).

Early in 2018, Upbrand started making payments related to the old age home. These included the hire of a TLB (tractor loader backhoe) in all likelihood to clear for the old age home building site. On 30 January 2018, Upbrand made a payment of R50,000 for “Marapyane construction”, as well as two subsequent payments R12,360 on 29 May and R30,000 on 8 June 2018, both marked “Marapyane old age”.

Starting in March 2018, about five months after Matieni had received its first tranche of R20 million for the old age home from the NLC, Upbrand began making regular monthly salary payments of about R30,000 for a Marapyane site manager – identified in the bank statements as “Marapanye Site Manager”, “Marap Manager” and “Mara Project Manager – a “safety officer” and a “CLO” (community liaison manager).

The statements, which go up to the last quarter of 2018, reflect these monthly salaries until September 2018.

Right of reply

In response to detailed questions about the payments to Huma, NLC spokesperson Ndivhuho Mafela said: “The NLC is cooperating with the SIU investigation and therefore will not be making any comments on any project that falls under the timeline stipulated by the proclamation.”

Phillemon Letwaba, who is suing Ground Up and this reporter for alleged defamation, refused to answer detailed questions about the payments to Huma sent to him via WhatsApp.

“I will exercise my rights in court. I don’t have time for an angry beneficiary of the NLC.” He was referring to a lie spread by the NLC, himself, and NLC spokesman Ndivhuho Mafela, as well as others who have popped up to defend the NLC against allegations of corruption and maladministration. They claim that this reporter and GroundUp are reporting on the Lottery because they are disgruntled former beneficiaries of Lottery funding.

Questions sent to two email addresses for Johannes Letwaba both bounced back. The phone number that GroundUp has for him does not have WhatsApp, so questions were also sent to him via SMS. Asked to forward the questions to him, Phillemon Letwaba replied: “I am not my brother’s PA”.

SAYM Executive Director Alfred Segudla did not respond to questions sent to the SAYM email address, his personal email address, and his WhatsApp number.

Timeline

  • 22 November 2016: NLC pays Denzhe Primary Care R7.5 million
  • 23 November 2016: Denzhe pays Upbrand Properties R3.35 million
  • 23 November 2016: Upbrand Properties pays Huma R1 million
  • 1 December 2016: SA Youth Movement Mpumalanga pays Upbrand R3.5 million
  • 2 December 2016: Upbrand Properties pays Huma R1 million
  • 01 April 2017: Huma appointed to the Board of the NLC
  • 1 April 2016: Phillemon Letwaba’s wife Daisy becomes the sole member of Just Cuban Restaurant CC
  • 15 September 2017: Just Cuban Restaurant CC is converted to a Company
  • 16 October 2017: Matieni Community Centre NPO is awarded grant of R20 million by the NLC
  • 20 October 2017: Deed of sale for Portion 3 of Farm Montengoelu 398 is finalised from the Rossouw Family trust to BDH Group
  • 23 October 2017: Matieni Community Centre NPO pays attorneys Grobler, Levin, Soonius Inc. in Rustenburg R5 million for the transfer of Portion 3 of Farm Montengoelu 398
  • April 2018: Daisy Letwaba signs an offer on behalf of Just Cuban Restaurant Proprietary Limited to purchase Erf 16 Portion 8 Pretoria for R3,5m. This is the property on which Just Cuban restaurant is situated
  • 18 April 2018: Huma accepts the offer to purchase on behalf of BDH Trust
  • 13 November 2018: Transfer of Erf 16 Portion 8 Pretoria takes place

This article first appeared on GroundUp

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