Mail and Guardian

The University of Limpopo is oiling the wheels of the patronage machine around expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema through two multimillion-rand contracts handed to his close associates.

The beneficiaries, Mandla Seopela and Collins Foromo, are linked to the Friends of the Youth League, which Malema and his allies set up as an alternative structure to the ANC Youth League after his expulsion from the ANC.

The national government took over the administration of five Limpopo departments in December,a move widely seen as cutting off the flow of state resources to those around Malema. Now, according to two sources familiar with the university’s financial administration, it is one of the last pockets of support for his campaign.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told Parliament in May that 38 “suspicious transactions” in Limpopo have been referred to police for criminal investigation.

The Mail & Guardian was told the higher education department had questioned the awarding of the two university contracts, but the university’s senior management, which cited the Higher Education Act as protecting their autonomy, thwarted it.

The department denied this on Thursday, but confirmed that the university council had launched an investigation into allegations contained in a report by the public protector. The report is unconnected to the public protector’s yet-to-be-released investigation into Malema’s companies.

As Malema and the Friends crisscrossed the platinum belt last month in the wake of the violent protests in which 46 people died, questions were raised about the source of the funding for his “economic freedom” campaign. The questions come amid intense scrutiny of Malema’s own finances flowing from parallel probes by the public protector, the Hawks and the South African Revenue Service. Malema’s time of reckoning

Three-phase project
The university confirmed that in July last year it awarded a R27.8-million tender for the conversion of a gymnasium into a laboratory to Foromo, Malema’s former driver-turned-businessman.

The M&G understands that this is the first stage of three-phase project worth about R60-million in total.

Foromo told the M&G that he is invited to all the Friends’s rallies, but denied contributing to the organisation.

In addition, the university has handed Seopela, one of the founders of the Friends and a self-confessed Malema sympathiser, a lucrative three-year lease for dining facilities on campus, enabling him to sell meals to students. The precise value of the deal could not be established this week. The university confirmed that it awarded the tender to Seopela’s company, Bohlaleng Foods, in respect of the Medunsa campus in January last year.

Seopela toured Marikana in Malema’s company two days after 34 miners were shot dead during a protest. He has been previously quoted, alternatively with Floyd Shivambu, as a spokesperson for the Friends.

A former president of the South African Students Congress and an ex-president of the university’s student representative council, Seopela also works as a speechwriter for Limpopo Premier and close Malema ally Cassel Mathale.

A university council member complained that the subcommittee responsible for awarding contracts is notorious for not attaching detailed records of its decisions to its reports. Tender winners are simply announced as a fait accompli, the source claimed.

Bigger battles
‘Now that they can’t control the provincial government departments, they’re using the university to get money,” said the council member.

But Friends spokesperson Shivambu issued a ringing denial: “Whoever is trying to link us to any form of wrongdoing in tenders is being a fucking arsehole. We have bigger battles to focus on here than fighting against crocodiles. Why would we be bothered by lizards and petty unrelated issues?”  M&G