Hawks act against one of their own for Lottery corruption

Spokeperson Hangwani Mulaudzi and former Head of Risk at the National Lotteries Commission Marubini Ramatsekisa are both named in a dossier handed to prosecutors

By Raymond Joseph, Thembi Siaga and Anton van Zyl

12 February 2024

Photo of large house next to small ones

Marubini Ramatsekisa’s mansion in his home village dwarfs the houses around. Photo: Raymond Joseph

The Hawks have completed an investigation into a multimillion-rand National Lotteries Commission (NLC) grant made to a foundation controlled by a former high-ranking police officer. The dossier and its findings have been handed to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The investigation focused on former Hawks national spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi, his wife, Rudzani, and a “consultant” allegedly involved in helping launder money misappropriated from the grant. The Hawks also investigated the role played by Marubini Ramatsekisa, the former NLC Head of Risk, who has been implicated in several other cases of fraud and corruption involving dodgy multimillion-dollar grants.

The investigation has been flagged as a priority by both the Hawks and the NPA, a source with knowledge of the investigation told GroundUp.

The R3-million grant was given to the Hangwani Mulaudzi Foundation, whose directors include Mulaudzi and his wife. It was meant to develop a sports facility that included a soccer field, a netball court, change rooms and a borehole in Mukondeni village in Vhembe district, Limpopo. In 2020 the Foundation also received a R100,000 Covid-19 grant.

Mulaudzi allegedly used the lottery funds to buy two expensive vehicles and pay school fees for his children. Almost R2-million was paid to an unidentified consultant, allegedly to help launder the money. The consultant allegedly “took a cut” and then paid a large sum to Mulaudzi, according to the source.

Mulaudzi told the Limpopo Mirror in 2020 that the R3-million Lottery grant was insufficient.

“This is a rural area and carrying out a project in an area like this is quite expensive,” Mulaudzi said. “So far, it seems we have under-calculated the project cost because we are now using monies from our own pockets to complete it, and that might come to anything between R300,000 and R500,000.”

The NPA Specialised Commercial Crime Unit must now decide whether the matter is ready for prosecution. The complaint was lodged last year directly with Hawks head Lieutenant General Godfrey Lebeya by forensic consultant Paul O’Sullivan, who has been at loggerheads with Mulaudzi for years.

When GroundUp visited Mukondeni two weeks ago, we found the sports facility vandalised and in a state of disrepair. Equipment, including a pump and several large water tanks, paid for with lottery funds have gone missing. Some of the missing equipment is listed in a July 2021 report commissioned by the NLC.

The soccer field is overgrown and cattle graze on it. The goalposts have been upended and the netball hoops uprooted. The court surface is cracking and weeds are growing around the concrete fringes. Doors and windows in the changing rooms and a storeroom are missing. The toilet and change rooms were filled with rubbish and there was a foul smell coming from the toilets.

Patchy soccer pitch with unfinished storeroom and changeroom with a cow grazing on the field. Photo: Thembi Siaga

Mulaudzi resigned with immediate effect late in 2020, following an outcry when details of the lottery grant, as well as claims that the local ANC branch benefited from it, became known.

Responding to questions via WhatsApp, Mulaudzi said he “must respectfully refrain from commenting due to legal implications and to maintain the integrity of the ongoing legal process.”

He said he was “fully committed to responding appropriately with evidence in the court setting, ensuring a comprehensive and lawful resolution.”

It was “reassuring … to learn that the wheels of justice are in motion to bring this long matter to its conclusion,” he said.

Hawks national spokesperson Brigadier Thandi Mbambo confirmed that the docket is with the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, which will decide whether it is ready for prosecution.

Lumka Mahanjana, the Gauteng NPA spokesperson confirmed that the Hawks docket had been submitted to the NPA and that it was “still under consideration”.

Charge sheet

Ramatsekisa, who like Mulaudzi comes from Mukondeni, resigned late last year while on suspension before he could face an internal disciplinary enquiry on a raft of serious charges. These included enabling “the commission of corrupt or fraudulent activities against the NLC” and gross misconduct and dereliction of duty.

He was originally charged in December 2022 and additional charges were added in July 2023. After his resignation in December 2023, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) successfully applied to the Special Tribunal for an order to freeze his R1.7-million pension after he tried to withdraw it.

SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago wrote that Ramatsekisa’s pension funds would “remain interdicted pending finalisation of an application to be brought against him by the SIU”.

“The SIU’s investigation into the affairs of the NLC found that Ramatsekisa was a key player and a willing facilitator of an elaborate scheme to defraud the Commission through proactive funding”, he said.

“The SIU intends to institute civil proceedings against Mr Ramatsekisa to recover damages suffered by NLC because of his conduct.”

Ramatsekisa’s NLC charge sheets, largely based on the SIU findings, allege fraud and corruption involving several grants to non-profit organisations. But the order freezing his pension was only based on a R4-million grant to a dormant non-profit shelf company.

Ramatsekisa failed to respond to questions sent to his WhatsApp number. A man who answered a phone number listed on Facebook for his leisure resort, The Rams Palace Resort, said he would ask Ramatsekisa to call back. He never did.

Marubini Ramatsekisa. Extracted from an NLC video. (fair use)

Serious charges

The charge sheets against Ramatsekisa set out how the NLC commissioned a forensic investigation into proactive funding, the mechanism at the heart of Lottery looting, in February 2020. The report, which was never acted on (as was the case with several other reports commissioned by the NLC), was conducted by SkX Protiviti.

“The SkX Report makes adverse findings against you, relating to your involvement in the management of the proactive funding model”, the first charge sheet reads. “In addition, the NLC has independently identified instances at which you breached the provisions of NLC policies and procedures, as well as your duties and functions as Enterprise Risk Management Specialist and Grant Funding Projects Manager.”

Charges against Ramatsekisa included his:

Regarding the last of the charges, the charge sheet says, “On 5 August 2020, you instructed provincial managers and their teams not to upload reports relating to the Covid-19 Relief Programme on the organisation’s electronic system … You were not authorised to issue such an instruction. The effect of this instruction was to … hinder the monitoring of the use of public funds in respect of this programme.”

Rags to riches

The son of a retired school teacher and a stay-at-home mother, Ramatsekisa grew up in Mukondeni and now lives in Pretoria. He enjoyed a meteoric rise through the organisation’s ranks and within a few years of joining the NLC in 2013 in a relatively junior position, he was promoted to the Grant Funding Projects Manager, a key position in the funding chain. Three years later he became Chief Risk Officer, heading the unit responsible for investigating and preventing fraud. By the time he resigned late in 2023, Ramatsekisa was earning R1.7-million a year.

He built a magnificent three-story mansion in Mukondeni, the biggest home in his village, which stands empty for long periods when he is not in residence. He has also developed a pleasure resort with three pools just outside nearby Sereni village and owns a TLB (tractor, loader, backhoe) that locals say is hired out for local construction jobs. Besides his mansion in Mukondeni, Ramatsekisa and his wife own properties in Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and Halfway House in Gauteng,

Both his village property and his leisure resort are on tribal land allocated by the local chief. GroundUp was unable to find any bonds registered with the Deeds Office on any of these properties, as is often the case with tribal land on which people usually self-fund construction.