JOHANNESBURG — Zimbabwean-born businessman Mutumwa Mawere has been arrested for allegedly defrauding the national lottery of nearly R5 million.
Mawere, a controversial figure and foe of President Robert Mugabe, was arrested in Johannesburg last week.
He is alleged to have used his African Heritage Society organisation to fraudulently secure a R4,5 million grant from the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, which is predominantly used to fund charities.
Mawere, who has dual citizenship, this year won a Constitutional Court case in Harare that allowed him to vote in the recent elections.
He has been living in South Africa since fleeing Zimbabwe after the Mugabe government instituted a corruption probe against him and his business partners.
The media have on numerous occasions quoted him as claiming to belong to a local branch of the ANC in Johannesburg, but these claims could not be independently verified.
The Sunday Independent was told by three ANC sources – including two leaders in the Johannesburg area — that Mawere was once the leader of the Rivonia branch.
The leaders, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to comment on the matter, said Mawere was taken through a disciplinary process and subsequently dismissed.
It is not clear why and when Mawere was booted out. His mining assets have been frozen by the Zimbabwean government and early this year it took over his mining firm, African Resources Limited, after restructuring its shareholding.
The Hawks confirmed that they had been investigating allegations that Mawere used the lottery money to enrich himself.
He allegedly applied for the R4,5 million grant under the pretence that his heritage organisation would build a “corporate heritage museum” in Rivonia, which would promote South African heritage.
According to Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramoloko, Mawere had further lied to the lotteries board when giving feedback on how the money granted was used.
“He claimed that a two-day workshop was held at a luxury hotel in Sandton, but it was later revealed that he had in fact, hosted the launch of his book titled Conversations with Mawere,” Ramoloko said.
According to Ramoloko, the money deposited by the National Lotteries Board into the society’s bank account was transferred to Mawere’s various bank accounts.
“He also submitted fraudulent invoices to the lotteries board.”
Among other activities, his society awarded a lifetime achievement award to former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda at an event held in Johannesburg.
The keynote speaker at the glamorous event was then ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, who this week distanced the ANC from Mawere.
Phosa said he was representing the ANC when he spoke at the event to honour Kaunda.
“I went there to represent the ANC. I spoke in honour of Kaunda. He (Mawere) didn’t host us.
“I don’t know anything about him. It was not him who invited us, but the organisation . . . whatever it was. It was not my understanding that he invited us,” he said.
The image gallery of Mawere’s organisation’s website showcases photographs of influential figures attending his events, including now-disgraced former Communications minister Dina Pule, ANC stalwart Oliver Tambo’s daughter Tselane Tambo and musician Hugh Masekela.
Lotteries board chief executive Charlotte Mampane said they had not been formally informed of Mawere’s arrest, but were aware of the investigation.
She could not, however, explain how it was possible for such a fraudulent transaction to go undetected throughout the board’s grant applications processes.
“The (board) is investigating the matter of how the African Heritage Society is said to have defrauded our organisation. Upon conclusion of the investigation the board will be in a position to divulge what went wrong,” she said.
Mawere’s lawyer Rod Montano was only prepared to say that “we are preparing for the bail hearing on Wednesday”.