Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini has exposed her relationship with a controversial businessman with links to the social grants distribution tender.

The Sunday Times has seen text messages that confirm the minister’s relationship with Lunga Ncwana, and reveal clandestine meetings, notorious friends and connections to Cash Paymaster Services.

The explosive revelations are contained in correspondence between Dlamini and then director-general of social development Zane Dangor – who resigned recently in the wake of the social grants scandal.

The direct link to Ncwana is contained in one message Dlamini sent in March, in which she accused Dangor of attending meetings that decided who should be her friends: “You and Sipho [Shezi – adviser to the minister] have been used by [Sassa CEO Thokozani] Magwaza who is a friend to my former boyfriend who wanted to extort money from Lunga and could not.”

Sassa CEO Thokozani Magwaza sets record straight

Dlamini’s relationship with Ncwana has been the subject of speculation since the South African Social Security Agency scandal came to light and this is the first time that proof linking the two has been made public.

The Sunday Times understands the ex-boyfriend mentioned in the message is a former intelligence official known as Cessaro. It appears the message relates to a falling out over the establishment of a BEE vehicle that was to partner with CPS to distribute social grants.

A Sunday Times investigation has revealed that Cessaro, the minister’s live-in partner at the time, was the brains behind establishing a BEE vehicle that partnered with CPS in 2011. However, sources say Cessaro was sidelined when Ncwana and his associates were roped in.

When contacted for comment this week, Cessaro said he was a very private person who would not comment on any relationship, private or personal.

“I can tell you one thing, I have nothing to do with the minister. I have nothing to do with the CPS. I am no BEE partner of anyone.

“You can call her and ask when last she spoke to me. I am so OK with being unknown, private and not being a BEE partner of anything. I don’t ask money from anybody,” he said.

He had never tried to extort money from anyone, as the minister claims in messages. “I don’t know why she [Dlamini] would say I tried to extort money from Lunga Ncwana. If Lunga says that to you, I will comment. I’m not a blackmailer or extortionist and I am happy not being in the media.”

The minister’s spokeswoman, Lumka Oliphant, demanded proof of the correspondence.

“By now any respectable journalist or media house that claims to be doing an ‘investigation’ should bring hard evidence and not corridor gossip. If it is alleged that money exchanged hands … as you seem to be, there should be evidence. Your investigation should be presenting the minister with that,” she said. Anyone with evidence of meetings with people from outside the department or Sassa should approach the law enforcement agencies, she said.

Insiders claimed Ncwana used his proximity to Dlamini to interfere in the department’s operations and intimidate officials. Several officials in the department and Sassa have labelled Ncwana the driving force behind the minister’s insistence to extend the CPS contract.

Insiders claimed Lunga Ncwana used his proximity to Bathabile Dlamini to interfere in the department’s operations and intimidate officials. Image: ROBERT TSHABALALA

Sources close to Cessaro said he had told Dlamini about his plan to set up a BEE partner. But Dlamini had passed it on to her “close friend” Ncwana, who had run with it. “The night after it was confirmed that CPS has won the contract, Lunga … came to celebrate at the minister’s house. Cessaro was asked to give them some space. When he realised this, he was told he would get his share and he shouldn’t worry,” said a source close to Dlamini.

Ncwana is close to Brian Mosehla, the so-called BEE partner in the CPS-Sassa deal. Mosehla allegedly walked away with R83-million from the deal. But according to Serge Belamant, the CEO of Net1, the parent company of CPS, Mosehla is still CPS’s BEE partner.

He said CPS’s BEE partner was Business Venture Investments No1774, which, according to a company search, is wholly owned by Mosehla. The company also comes up as Ncwana’s employer as of October 2016.

A Sassa official recalls that in 2011, prior to the award of the R10-billion contract to CPS, Ncwana was involved in meetings with the minister and officials. Mosehla was first seen by Sassa officials in 2012, just before AllPay took the agency to court to invalidate the CPS contract.

After the Sunday Times sent a list of questions to Oliphant, they were circulated in chat groups that included the implicated individuals.

Calls to Ncwana went to voicemail, and he did not respond to text messages or WhatsApps.

When contacted, Mosehla said: “Who are you? This is not Brian’s number.” He did not respond to subsequent phone calls.

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