How the Lottery paid R1.7-million for a flash mob that never happened

MSG, owner of Power FM, channelled the money for the National Lotteries Commission

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This is an amateurishly shot video for a Women’s Day “flash mob activation”, for which the National Lotteries Commission paid R1.7-million, featuring social media personality and performer Lebo Molax’s dance group Boys In Heels. As far as we can tell the video has not previously been made public. GroundUp does not hold the copyright on the video but we make it available here as fair use.

  • In 2021 the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) paid over R1.7-million for a Women’s Day “flash mob activation” that never happened.
  • All the NLC had to show for R1.7-million is an amateurish, six-minute video of three men dancing in high heels.
  • The money was paid on behalf of the NLC by MSG Group (which owns Power-FM and Capricorn radio) to Elsiscope, a shelf-company linked to Mabotle Mokwebo, who was contracted as an NLC governance and ethics “expert” at the time.

The NLC paid over R1.7-million for a Women’s Day “flash mob activation” in 2021 that never happened.

Instead of a public and spontaneous flash mob event, all the NLC got for R1.7-million was a poor-quality video (see above) of three men dancing in high heels in a deserted gym.

Although the NLC published several posts (such as this one) promoting the flash mob on social media, GroundUp has been unable to find any instances of the video ever having been published online.

The NLC commissioned Elsiscope, a shelf company, to produce the video. But what is suspicious is that instead of directly paying Elsiscope for the video, the NLC asked MSG, owner of Johannesburg-based Power FM and Limpopo-based Capricorn FM, to pay Elsiscope.

The MSG invoice clearly states it has nothing to do with the video.

“The second element of flash mob activation, etc., is being executed by a service provider of the NLC’s choice,” the company stated on the invoice. “MSG will act only by passing through in full the funds to that provider.”

The video, featuring social media personality and performer Lebo Molax’s dance group Boys In Heels, is amateurishly filmed and has substandard production values. The background music is late superstar Whitney Houston’s I’m Every Woman. Whether permission to use the track was sought or paid for is unknown.

Molax did not respond to GroundUp’s questions sent by WhatsApp or answer our phone calls.

MSG’s R2.9-million invoice to the NLC also includes a charge of R1.2-million for a Women’s Day Women in Governance show on its Power FM station, hosted by former NLC commissioner Thabang Mampane, and for publicising the show.

GroundUp understands that MSG has launched an investigation of the circumstances of the flash mob arrangements, which were handled by a member of staff who no longer works for the company. The outcome of the investigation is unknown.

A source with direct knowledge of the payment confirmed that the instruction for MSG to pay Elsiscope came from Mabotle Mokwebo, contracted as an NLC governance and ethics “expert” at the time.

Image of Mabontle Mokwebo used in NLC advert. (fair use)

Mbali Ncube, who is a relative of Mokwebo’s husband and who previously lived in their home, is the sole director of Elsiscope.

Ncube told GroundUp that she had no knowledge of the company and that her identity document had been used to register it without her knowledge. She agreed to meet a reporter at a mall in Durban, but failed to keep the appointment.

Mokwebo told GroundUp that she had reported to former NLC chief operating officer Phillemon Letwaba, one of the key people behind the looting of the lottery. He resigned under a cloud in August 2022 shortly before he was due to face a disciplinary hearing on numerous charges, including abusing his position to enrich himself and his family. Letwaba did not reply to a request for comment.

The flash mob payment is one of several totalling almost R5-million that the NLC paid to Elsiscope. The R1.7-million was paid just three months after the company was purchased “off the shelf” and Ncube appointed as its sole director.

The payment to MSG was declared an unauthorised expenditure by the Auditor-General.

“Time pressure” payment

Tshifhiwa Mulaudzi, MSG managing director, said the “MSG Group Sales salesperson liaised with the client, NLC Senior Specialist (Media Liaison). The client [NLC] informed our salesperson that NLC was working on an urgent Woman’s Day (Flash Mob activation) event”.

Mulaudzi said that MSG Group Sales “had no prior or subsequent relationship” with Elsiscope. “MSG Group Sales did not have any contact and was not party to any arrangements between Elsiscope and NLC.”

“Due to time pressures, they [the NLC] requested MSG Group Sales to assist in paying their service provider.”

Attempt to flight video at Top Women events

The NLC also laid out R220,000 plus VAT for former commissioner Mampane to facilitate a pre-recorded virtual panel for Standard Bank’s Top Women’s Conference in September 2021, organised by media company Topco.

Initially, Topco dealt with Gladys Petje, the NLC manager for marketing and communications, according to Topco CEO Ralf Fletcher. But a week before the conference he received an email from Petje, in which Mokwebo was copied, proposing the idea of screening the flash mob video.

“The conference runs to a very tight schedule and we could not fit it in and it was never flighted,” said Fletcher.

This did not stop the NLC from marketing their participation in the conference with a reference to the flash mob.

Having failed to have the video flighted at the conference, the NLC then contacted Topco to ask if the flash mob video could be flighted at the Standard Bank’s Top Women’s Awards in November 2021.

“They [the NLC] had nothing to do with these awards and we said no,” said Fletcher.

Mokwebo linked to other payments

Although Mokwebo responded at length to questions from GroundUp in 2023, her responses to further questions last month were rude and evasive. She also sent a WhatsApp message to one of GroundUp’s reporters accusing him of being “a bully and racist”.

Besides Elsiscope, GroundUp has also been able to link Mokwebo to MeloMotion, which also benefited from the NLC. Her brother, Thato Mokwebo, was the creative director of MeloMotion at the time it supplied services to the NLC, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Both Mokwebo and her husband were directors of Melomotion in 2018 and resigned that year. Stanley Ngcobo became the company’s sole director. Attempts to track down Ngcobo were unsuccessful.

Responding to questions about Melomotion and his role in the company, Thato Mokwebo demanded that our reporter supply his credentials. These were provided but no response followed.

After Mbali Ncube, sole director of Elsiscope, failed to meet us at the mall, “Senzo Ndlovu”, who claimed to work in Elsiscope’s “Legal and Compliance Department”, responded to our questions by email.

Ndlovu referred to Ncube as “our client” and alleged that we had failed to introduce ourselves as journalists and falsely claimed to be SIU investigators. He also queried our authority to pose questions.

Repeated attempts to call Ndlovu on the number he gave in his email were unsuccessful.

TOPICS:  Corruption National Lotteries Commission

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