Mandela funeral taxi bill balloons: Saturday Dispatch

THE scandal grows over transport tendepreneur Mzwandile “Zwai” Richard Sokwali, accused of grossly overcharging Buffalo City Metro (BCM) to transport mourners to Nelson Mandela memorial services.

The Saturday Dispatch can today reveal that Sokwali’s Victory Ticket 750cc this week submitted a second invoice claiming over R3-million for transporting about 11 600 mourners from East London to the provincial memorial service at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

If this is so, then Sokwali and his wife Busisiwe Boti are in line to swallow about R9-million of a R10million emergency fund approved by the city council shortly after Nelson Mandela’s death.

The money was meant to assist the public to collectively mourn Madiba.

Simple maths shows Victory Ticket 750cc would have had to hire a gigantic fleet of 773 15-seater taxis for the Port Elizabeth trip.

Yesterday, BCM pulled back from revealing any details of the second invoice. “For now, I can confirm that the metro has received the second invoice, but it will not be processed until all the logistics linked to the activities are collated,” said City spokesman Keith Ngesi.

The Dispatch also learnt that a R30-million tender granted last July to another company owned by Sokwali was later withdrawn amid a storm of controversy after the provincial department of sport, recreation, arts and culture (SRAC) found that his company, Sizisa Ukhanyo, did not meet all the criteria.

This was confirmed by departmental spokesperson Malehlohonolo Mlabateki.

Mlabateki was responding to information given to the Dispatch by sources who said the R30-million tender was stopped by head of sport Mzolisi Matutu amid protests from taxi and bus organisations.

By then Sokwali’s company had already invoiced and been paid more than a million rand.

Yesterday Sokwali had nothing to say. “No comment,” he said advising the Dispatch to “speak to my lawyer”. Despite saying he would provide his attorney’s details via

SMS, he did not.

Public fury mounted this week after it was revealed that Sokwali’s Victory Ticket 750cc charged BCM, and was paid, R5.9-million to ferry a claimed 8 000 mourners to four local Nelson Mandela memorial service venues. This included:

December 10, 2 200 people transported to Gompo Hall in buses and taxis;

December 11, 3 400 people transported to the War Memorial in King William’s Town by bus and taxi, and 800 to the Mdantsane Indoor Sport Centre by taxi; and

December 12, 1 600 people ferried to East London’s City Hall.

However, a Dispatch check yesterday with BCM officials revealed that all four halls can only hold a combined 2 470 people.

Dispatch reporters saw only about 2 000 mourners in total.

Amid calls from opposition parties for BCM to come clean, Ngesi said the metro was “fully aware that this matter is of public interest” but the public would have to wait, he said, for a “detailed report” to be placed before council on January 31.

Mayor Zukiswa Ncitha would address the media, he added.

PAC BCM councillor Jerome Mdyolo lambasted BCM for paying the invoice. “This is scandalous! It is so scary that money will be stolen using the name of Nelson Mandela. We are calling for investigations, and if a person is found guilty, the police must be called in. Otherwise, we are going to [Public Protector] Thuli Madonsela.”

DA provincial leader Athol Trollip said the DA’s initial support for Ncitha’s request to cull R10-million from the city budget to enable residents to allow them to mourn their iconic leader Nelson Mandela, had turned to revulsion at the way the grieving public had been “milked”.

Trollip thundered: “We did not give anyone a pink ticket to milk BCM on the basis of an unbelievably fictitious invoice for transport and other spurious costs. We did not give anyone the right to abuse and misappropriate the money. We will be asking questions in the legislature and council to pursue this matter until the people responsible are held to account.” — mikel@dispatch.co.za and staff reporters