19 March 2019

South Africa: Lottery Gives Out More Money to Associates of Controversial Lawyer

The National Lotteries Commission has awarded two grants totalling R20-million rand to two non-profit companies associated with a controversial lawyer, despite the fact that another multimillion-rand project in which he is involved is under investigation.

The grants, to build "sanitation facilities" at 25 schools, were awarded in November 2018 to two non-profit companies (NPOs) that have employees of Pretoria attorney Lesley Ramulifho as their directors.

Ramulifho was a director of both companies but resigned his directorships a few months before the grants were awarded, according to Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) records.

The latest funding brings to R60-million the known total in grants allocated since 2017 to four different non-profit organisations (NPOs) and non-profit companies (NPCs) associated with Ramulifho. The funding is for a variety of projects; a drug rehabilitation centre, a sports development programme and the construction of toilets at schools.

At least two of the four known projects funded by Lottery use Ramulifho's law offices in Garsfontein as their registered postal address. A third NPO used the office address as its official address in its successful application for Lottery funding.

And three of Ramulifho employees - Liesl Moses, Tsietsi Joseph Tshabalala, and Louisa Mangwagape - are listed directors of both of the latest non-profit companies to be funded. Tshabalala describes himself on LinkedIn as a "receptionist" employed at Ramulifho's law offices.

Lotteries Commission communications head Ndivhuho Mafela avoided answering specific and detailed questions about the funding and the relationship between Ramulifho and the people involved, saying: "It is bizarre for you to expect the Lotteries Commission to answer questions about people's private personal relationships due to the fact that they are mere beneficiaries. The Lotteries Commission deals with registered organisations, a fact that you deliberately ignore at all cost."

Projects

Here are the details of the projects associated with Ramulifho that have received Lottery funding.

Dinosys signed a R10-million contract with the Lottery in November 2018 for the "construction of sanitation facilities" at 15 schools. Both the Lotteries Commission and Liesl Moses, the "chairperson" and a director of the company and an employee of Ramulifho, refused to say where the schools were, whether Dinosys had any experience in construction projects, or who would build the facilities. Moses cited a "confidentiality agreement signed with the Lotteries Commission as a reason for not answering questions. She also denied that Ramulifho had any association with Dinosys.

All three of the Dinosys directors listed in CIPC records - Moses, Mangwagape and Tshabalala - are employed by Ramulifho at his Garsfontein offices. Ramulifho was appointed a director of Dinosys in January 2018 but resigned his directorship in September 2018, about two months before the grant agreement was signed, according to CIPC records.

In its application for Lottery funding, Dinosys said its physical address was 14 Summit Road, Beaconhurst, East London, suggesting that the recipient schools may be in the Eastern Cape.

But when journalist Lisekho Madikane visited this address for GroundUp, she discovered it was for a complex called Summit Green. She spoke to several residents and a helper working there, but none of them knew of any business being run out of any of the flats. An elderly couple who have lived at the neighbouring 16 Summit Road for many years said they were not aware of a construction company operating from the next door flats. And the owner of Loyiso Civil Construction, which operates from a nearby house, said he was not aware of Dinosys or any other construction company operating in the area.

Zibsifusion signed a grant agreement in November 2018, for the "implementation of sanitation in ten public schools". The "physical address" for the company is given as a post office box in Malamulele in Limpopo in the grant agreement signed with the Lotteries Commission. The "registered office" of the company is that of Ramulifho's law offices. The agreement was signed by "chairperson" Louisa Mangwagape, an employee of Ramulifho. She failed to respond to emailed questions about the grant and Ramulifho's relationship to the company. CIPC records reveal that Mangwagape, Moses, and Tshabalala are all active directors of the company and list Ramulifho's law offices as their postal address. Ramulifho became a director of the company in May 2017 and resigned in March 2018, a few months before the Lottery funding grant was signed.

Denzhe Primary Care was dormant when it was hijacked and used to receive about R28.5 million between June 2017 and January 2018 to build and run a drug rehabilitation centre near Pretoria. The project is the subject of litigation and is facing allegations of shoddy, incomplete construction, and claims that as much as R20 million in Lottery funding is unaccounted for. The brother of the Lotteries Commission's Chief Operating Officer Philemon Letwaba was sole director of a construction company at the time it signed a R15 million Lottery-funded contract to build the rehab. He subsequently resigned his directorship.

I AM MADE 4 GOD'S GLORY (IAM4GG), a Limpopo-based project "to provide infrastructure in order to advance sport, recreation and physical activity in communities across the country", signed a R11,375,000 grant agreement with the Lotteries Commission in April 2018.

In its application, IAM4GG said the project was aimed at sports "transformation" and athletes from "disadvantaged ... especially rural communities". In its funding application, IAM4GG lists Ramulifho as chairperson and Moses as "Treasury", and gives the lawyer's offices as the company's address. According to the funding application, the project would create 60 full-time and 40 part-time jobs and benefit over 16,000 people.

Ramulifho has also confirmed that he used over R535,000 of Denzhe's Lottery funding for two Ocean Basket franchises he purchased in Gauteng. He made this admission in a sworn affidavit confirming a confused and contradictory affidavit by Denzhe's founder Takelane Tshikalange, who had earlier laid a complaint with police that her organisation had been "stolen" and used to apply for Lottery funding. The affidavit contradicts the sworn affidavit she had earlier made to police. It came after a GroundUp investigation revealed the Ocean Basket payments.

In her statement, Tshikalange confirmed that Ramulifho had used the company's money to pay for the Ocean Basket franchises, but claimed he had "repaid it". The Lotteries Commission ignored a request from GroundUp for comment on whether this was an acceptable use of grant funding.

Responses

In her response to detailed questions emailed to her, Moses said: "We are under a confidentiality and non-disclosure clause agreement with our funders. Should you wish to get any information relating to the grants, kindly address the same to the funder [Lotteries Commission]."

But, she added: "We will be happy to invite you and your newsmakers for the opening of these new toilets school facilities upon completion to help you write more constructive stories around our black school pupils dying in the toilet pits."

Denying that Ramulifho was involved in the two latest non-profit companies to receive Lottery funding, she added: "We cannot speak on behalf of Mr. Ramulifho and you will be better served if you refer any questions relating to him directly."

Lesley Ramulifho also failed to answer detailed questions emailed to him. Instead he responded: "Your various repeated articles and email questions about me since last year are well noted and frankly exhausting to read.

"On Denzhe - you have repeated same issues enough and I'm happy to answer any new questions in this regard. To this point this matter was fully ventilated and settled from the NPO stand point. On the other two NPOs' my advice to you is to contact the relevant directors of the said NPOs' and ask whatever questions you deem fit. Accordingly, I'm not a director of either or a spokesperson thereof."

When clarification of his answers was sought, Ramulifho responded: "I don't work for you Raymond. Stop harassing me."

In his response to very detailed emailed questions, Lotteries Commission communications head Mafela said: "The three organisations listed in the query (IAM4GG, Dinosys and Zibsifusion) are beneficiaries of the Lottery, and funding was recently granted to them.

"These projects are underway, and the normal National Lotteries Commission process of monitoring progress reports and monitoring and evaluation are also being implemented as per each organisation's grant agreement.

"It is important to note that the Lotteries Commission does not fund individuals, but organisations in the form of NGOs, NPCs and other Public Benefit Organisations and that relationship with a beneficiary is governed by a grant agreement which is a civil contract."

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