Weekly Xposé Team
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who has publicly stated he is being targeted by elements hell-bent on raiding Treasury, may himself have stolen millions from the same public coffers he has vowed to protect. Weekly Xposé can reveal that two anonymous whistle-blowers have spilled the beans on the minister who they accuse of improperly benefiting to the tune of almost R11m from a Special Pension Fund he did not qualify for by being a public office bearer.
The alleged improper benefit relates to an Act that gave effect to Section 189 of the Interim Constitution (Act, 200 of 1993), which stated that “provisions shall be made by an Act of Parliament for the payment of special pensions by the national government to persons (or their dependents) who made sacrifices or who have served the public interest in the establishment of a democratic constitutional order”.
The Act defines a military veteran as “any South African citizen “who rendered service to any of the military organisations, statutory and non-statutory, which were involved on all sides of South Africa’s liberation war from 1960 to 1994; or served in the Union Defence Force before 1961; or became members of the new SANDF after 1994; and has completed his or her military training and no longer performs military service, and has not been dishonourably discharged from that military organisation”.
According to a complaint laid with the Hawks, Gordhan does also not meet this requirement. The 2005 amendment further provided for the dissolution of the Board and Special Pensions Review Board (“Review Board”) and made room for the National Treasury to be responsible for administering the Act. Weekly Xposé is in possession of a leaked internal memorandum of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation(Hawks) dated 17 March 2017, signed by Component Head of Serious Corruption Investigation Directorate Major General ZL Mnonopi which states that the Hawks have received a complaint on the matter.
“On Wednesday 25 May 2016, this office received information relating to corruption of between ten and eleven million rand that was paid to a public office bearer, the Minister of Finance Mr Pravin Gordhan from the Pension Fund,” states the memo. Adds the memo: “The allegations go further to say the recipient was not entitled to such payment. The allegations continue to say the Fund was not meant to benefit anyone who is a public office bearer. It is however stated that Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan, being a public office bearer at the time of the implementation of the Fund also benefited an amount of R11m from the Fund.”
The memo states that the money is alleged to have been paid by former Head of the Pension Fund Marion Mbina Mthembu, who is currently the Director General (DG) in the office of the Eastern Cape Premier. The Hawks further say in the memo that on 15 December 2015, they held a meeting with Mthembu in East London “where she confirmed that indeed the minister of finance was paid, including other senior officials”. The memo says Mthembu was adamant that Gordhan qualified for the payment, however she refused to submit an affidavit.
“A subpoena in terms of Section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 was authorised by the court and served to the Government Pension Administration Agency (GPAA), requesting a list of payments from their system that were made to all MK Veterans from 1 April 2009 until 31 March 2014. The department later indicated that they could not assist because in their payment system, recipients were not categorised in terms of their political affiliation,” states the memo.
The memorandum concludes: “the investigation team is now anticipating consulting with the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) for further guidance and discussion of the matter to pave the way forward.” Attempts by Weekly Xposé to get a comment from Mthembu drew a blank as her office said she was in a meeting on yesterday while her cellphone was still going through to voicemail today.
Weekly Xposé sent an email to Gordhan’s office. The first one sent on Wednesday 22 March at 11:33am. An automatic response was received instantly saying “your request is receiving attention. Please note that the response time depends on the availability of officials and final approval from management. You are welcome to follow up if you have not received a response within the next 8hrs-24hrs.” A second email was sent and Treasury responded by giving Weekly Xpose a mobile number to call. However our calls went unanswered. A Hawks spokesman confirmed the memorundum’s authenticity and promised a detailed response later.
See full memo below (click on the link):