A Freedom Day reflection from a member of the Ex-Robben Islander Empowerment Forum (ERIEF)
Tokyo Sexwale has long been fingered in his own corruption scandal regarding the millions in international funds raised for the benefit of ex Robben Island political prisoners and their dependants, which many of them have never received, says an ex Robben island prisoner. Instead Sexwale has enriched himself and his cronies through these funds – living the high life and even buying a R650 million island.
Ex-Robben Islanders Empowerment Forum (ERIEF) was amazed to see on JJ Tabane’s TV program, Tokyo Sexwale making such a big show about his moral outrage concerning corruption within the ranks of the new political elite. What a grand display of selective amnesia?
For years Sexwale has been at the epicentre of a corruption scandal that involved allegations of complicity, together with well known corporate companies, in BEE tender rigging, tax-evasion; secret bribes to politicians, members of the judiciary and embedded brown envelop journalists.
It all started in 1995 at the reunion of Robben Island ex-political prisoners on the former maximum security prison island where the desperate plight and poverty of many former political prisoners of the apartheid regime was widely debated. After lengthy discussions, the ex-political prisoners adopted a resolution to form an organisation to address the welfare and re-integration of the liberation struggle veterans into the South African society.
Soon after the adoption of this resolution, several ex-political prisoners were nominated and elected to serve as the founding executive committee, namely Ex-Political Prisoners National Executive Committee (EPPC) on 12 February 1995. But due to anticipated legal technicality the name was later changed to Ex-Political Prisoners Association (EPPA).
However, the ex-political prisoners were also sharply aware that the organisation could not realistically rely on donations alone to address the plight of the destitute ex-political prisoners. For this reason, the Robben Island ex-political prisoners decided that the organisation needs to also identify commercial investment opportunities that would also assist to create employment opportunities for the ex-political prisoners and their dependents.
Consequently, a trust and business vehicle, namely MAKANA TRUST and Makana Investment Corporation respectively, were established to raise the necessary funding and identify the said commercial investment opportunities with the sole objective to address the welfare of the liberation struggle veterans. It was agreed that some of the funding raised would be invested in BEE related business entities and in the private sector for this purpose. Sexwale became a Chairperson of the Makana Trust.
However, when the invested funds and investments started yielding results in millions Tokyo Sexwale and some of his comrade accomplices became greedy and hijacked the Trust for their own personal gain at the expense of the association of Robben Island ex-political prisoners. They did this by exploiting legal loopholes to manipulate and amend the Trust Deed in their favour by bestowing upon themselves unfettered discretional powers to do as they please with the funds and the accrued investment dividends.
In the post-1994 South African political environment and scramble for BEE tender contracts; political connectivity and the associated resources, became very crucial to corporate bosses who wanted, by any means possible, a stake in all major state business contracts.The economic status and lifestyle aspirations of some of the Robben Island ex-political prisoners and ANC leaders at that time did not go unnoticed to the corporate bosses. These aspirations, integrated to political connectivity, were explored, taken advantage of, exploited and abused to access state resources and major business deals to benefit individuals; family members; their multi-million Family Trusts; cronies; and to buy and influence internal election processes and outcomes.
Robben Island ex-political prisoners, especially those who at the time were considered to have a close approximity to Nelson Mandela and the general ANC leadership, but also mostly economically challenged, were targeted, wined and dined as well as groomed to follow predetermined business and procurement policy directions.
The name of the former Robben Island political prisoner and State President, Nelson Mandela, was exploited and abused, as well as used as a platform to underhandedly fast track and sweeten BBBEE arrangements, State tenders and deals. This was done with the help of well known law firms.
Driven by self-serving aspirations that finally led to the endemic corrupt tendencies and practice, some of the ex-political prisoners started using their connectivity to the corporate giants to influence internal election (ANC) and state policy decision processes, including the ANC deployment policy, in order to advance their narrow and selfish objectives that ultimately have negatively impacted the public service delivery in South Africa.
Not surprising, some of the said ex-political prisoners, flushed with unexplained, but suddenly acquired wealth, later became Ministers, DGs and heads of SOEs or executives of many corporate entities involved in State related business tenders and tender rigging.
This also explains the years of chronic nepotism; neglect; mismanagement and corruption endemic to the State owned former Political Security Prison island and internationally UN recognised Heritage site, Robben Island.
To this day, while Sexwale lives it up in multiple multi-million palatial homes, wine farms and holiday homes that dot the South Africa landscape, wining and dining in the most expensive restaurants, a lifestyle that includes a number of overseas holidays and a multi-million hideout island off the Mozambique coast, the majority of ex-political prisoners who are the founders of the Trust continue to live a life of misery and homelessness in dire poverty. For years they have been asking for those responsible to account but all in vain because the corrupt comrades use their political connectivity to close rank and protect each other.
Perhaps Sexwale can indulge the public by also explaining what happened to the millions that were supposedly invested to benefit the general community of Robben Island ex-political prisoners and their dependents?
MEDIA DESKSipho: 071 870 3303Mojalefa: 064 630 7233Ex-Robben Island Political Prisoners Forum (ERIEF)
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