Dodgy deals

Another Zuma son accused of ‘seeking bribe’ to clinch deal

Mxolisi said to have negotiated fee for TV set-top box contract

BY MZILIKAZI WA AFRIKA
President Jacob Zuma at the wedding of his son Mxolisi Saady Zuma to Phindile Luthuli.
President Jacob Zuma at the wedding of his son Mxolisi Saady Zuma to Phindile Luthuli.  Image: RICHARD SHOREY
Another Zuma son has been implicated in a bribery scandal. Mxolisi Saady Zuma has been accused of trying to broker a R54-million bribe to use his father’s influence to swing a government contract.

Mxolisi, 37, and his younger brother Duduzane are the children of Kate Zuma, who died after taking an overdose of sleeping pills and malaria medication in 2000.

Born in Mozambique during Jacob Zuma’s exile, Mxolisi keeps a low profile. He allegedly tried to broker a bribe with Altech UEC, a subsidiary of technology giant Altron, to help the company secure a multibillion-rand TV set-top box contract.

South Africa is migrating from analogue to digital terrestrial TV and the decoder will be necessary for homes to receive signals.

Although it is believed the money was never paid, Mxolisi negotiated with top executives for a “consultancy fee” to help the company swing a contract with the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa. The agency falls under the Department of Communications, and Faith Muthambi, a close friend of the president, was the minister when the tender was issued.

Two executives in the company told the Sunday Times this week that Altech had planned to bribe Mxolisi. “We were told that Saady would use his father’s influence to strong-arm the communications minister to swing the deal our way,” one of the executives said.

“One senior executive was discussing the bribe – which was going to be presented in our books as either commission or a consultancy fee – with Saady directly and we didn’t have knowledge of the entire discussion except what we were told.”

E-mails between executives of Altech UEC reveal that the R54-million fee for Mxolisi was discussed in March 2015.

The revelations come weeks after Altech and several other companies were summonsed to appear before the Competition Commission in connection with price collusion for the same tender.

In the e-mails, which the Sunday Times has seen, Mxolisi is referred to as SZ.

Former Altech MD Danie du Toit wrote an e-mail on March 16, 2015, to former chief operating officer Laurence Savage, saying: “Unconfirmed but strong rumours that UEC will be awarded 6m of the total allocation of which 4m in the next 12 months. Order expected from 20 March. Question, do we still sign up SZ? R54m + in fees. We achieved without his support.”

Responding, Savage wrote: “Should you be confident about the SADTT [South African digital terrestrial TV] without the input of SZ. Please let me know and we can revert to him asap in this regard.”

Yesterday, Altron group executive for marketing and communications Zipporah Maubane denied the company tried to bribe Mxolisi to win the tender.

“When the digital terrestrial television set-top box tender was issued in 2014, Altech UEC was the only local company with the capability and capacity to manufacture the set-top boxes. Altech UEC submitted a bid.”

R54 million – The ‘consultancy fee’ that Mxolisi Saady Zuma negotiated to help swing a contract for television decoders. R4.3 billion – The total value of the contract.

Maubane said Savage and Du Toit had since left the company but confirmed they “were approached by various parties and individuals, including Mxolisi Saady Zuma, looking for commercial manufacturing and supply partnerships in connection with the opportunity”.

She added: “Although discussions were held with these parties, the company took a firm decision not to enter into agreements with any of them. No monies or fees were paid to any individual or party. Altech UEC did not win the tender.”

She said the Altron group and its subsidiaries, including Altech UEC, obeyed the laws and regulations of all countries in which the company operated, including upholding the provisions of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.

Maubane said Altron was “co-operating fully” with the Competition Commission.

The Sunday Times attempted to contact Mxolisi through Zuma’s spokesman, Bongani Ngqulunga, but Mxolisi did not respond.

Altech UEC was one of 26 bidders awarded a slice of the R4.3-billion tender in early 2015. The intention was to subsidise decoders for five million poor households.

In August 2015, Usaasa’s first orders for 1.5 million set-top boxes were deemed to be beset with irregularities and possible illegalities, bringing a halt to production.

In May this year, Usaasa CEO Lumko Mtimde confirmed to the parliamentary portfolio committee on telecommunications and postal services that the entire procurement process was being reviewed because of possible irregularities and its massive cost.

Mxolisi reportedly has interests in six investment and broker companies, five of which he joined after his father became the country’s president in 2009. – Additional Reporting by Kyle Cowan.

SUNDAY TIMES

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