Missing lottery millions are dashing Limpopo cyclists’ dreams

Henry

By Anton van Zyl, GroundUp

On Louis Trichardt in Limpopo, two young cyclists are training with a view to making history as the first team from the rural Vhembe region to rub shoulders with the world’s best mountain bikers.

However, their biggest challenge is to find sponsorship to cover the expenses to participate in the annual Cape Epic race in the Western Cape.

It would also not have been necessary for them to stand idly by if it had not been that the money, which was allocated for cycling development in Limpopo, had been looted.

In January this year, Kombo Bere (26) and Daan Terblanche (23), two young cyclists from Louis Trichardt, heard that the race organizers had waived the R145 000 entry fee.

Both participate under the auspices of Soutpansberg Youth Cycling Development, a program which aims to assist young cyclists from rural areas.

The waiver significantly reduces their expenses, but they still have to raise money, including for their travel expenses.

In Limpopo there is no funding available for new, modern bikes for young riders, let alone any training equipment or sponsoring cyclists to participate in events such as the Cape Epic.

Still, money was allocated for cyclists like Bere and Terblanche. The National Lottery Commission (NLC) allocated a total of R9.5 million for cycling development in Limpopo in 2017, but this money was looted.

Dream stolen

The Special Investigation Unit (SUE) together with the National Prosecuting Authority informed concerned members of parliament on 14 February about progress in the investigation into large-scale fraud and corruption at the NLK.

One of the many investigations focused on the funds paid to Limpopo Recreational Providers (LRP), a non-profit organisation.

This organization asked for funds to organize an “annual cycling competition” as well as to recruit young cyclists and “promote good moral values ​​among the youth” and “provide resources to the needy” and “empower young cyclists”.

Several LRP members come from the Vhembe region. According to the SOE, this includes one Mr. Maphisa (director), Tshililo Mukwevho (chairman), Tsiko Herbert Ndou (treasurer), Christopher Tshivule (secretary), and two additional members, Samuel Shumani Mudau and Basani Michelle Mashele.

It is unclear whether all were “part of the deal”. Nevertheless, one of the members, Tshivule, is a convicted criminal.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison in July 2022 after being found guilty of fraud related to a R1.57 million lottery grant.

The specialized commercial crime court sitting in Palm Ridge found Tshivule hijacked The Message, a non-profit organization, to obtain illegal lottery funding.

Tshivule initially stood trial together with his cousin, Mukondeleli Tshivule, as well as Thomas Ndadza and Fulufhelo Promise Kharivhe on charges of fraud. The charges against his co-accused were later withdrawn after their representations to the National Prosecuting Authority were successful.

Tshivule and Ndadza are from the Madombidzha area, near Louis Trichardt. Promise Kharivhe’s home address is in Louis Trichardt.

Kharivhe’s husband, Collin Mukondeleli Tshisimba, is a member of three other non-profit organisations: Make Me Movement, Lethabong Old Age and Mbidzo Development Programme, which received a combined total of R53 million in lottery funding.

According to the SOE, Tshisimba has been identified as a person of interest in the looting of the lottery money. Several seizure orders have already been obtained against him and his wife’s properties.

This is apparently how money is laundered

The LRP submitted its application for funding on 30 August 2017. On 13 September 2017, R9.5 million was paid into the organisation’s FNB account.

According to the SOE, this money was transferred into three other companies’ accounts in less than three weeks.

All the companies have links to Collin Tshisimba and his wife, Promise Kharivhe.

Ndavha Management, with Tshisimba as sole director, received R5.7 million, while almost R1.8 million was paid into the account of Wa Rothe Construction. Kharivhe is the only director here.

Another of Kharivhe’s companies, Thawala Front, received R2 million.

The SOE’s presentation in parliament further showed how Thwala Front paid R780 000 to buy a piece of land near Brakspruit, north of Louis Trichardt. A confiscation order has since been obtained for this property.

Ndavha Management apparently diverted some of the millions to NLK officials who made the deal possible in the first place.

According to the SOE, R1.8 million was paid to a Land Rover dealer where a vehicle was purchased for “the benefit of Rebotile Malomane, the life partner of Letwaba”.

She is in fact married to Phillemon Letwaba, the NLK’s then chief financial officer.

“The vehicle is also registered as an asset of the Rasemate family trust, with Letwaba and his brother Johannes Kgomotso Letwaba being the sole trustees,” the SOE told parliament.

Seizure orders have meanwhile been obtained on several vehicles, property as well as Latvia’s pension fund.

He resigned last year, shortly before a second disciplinary hearing could be held against him.

Nothing left for cycling development

It would appear that not a single dime of the R9.5 million was ever used to promote cycling in Limpopo.

According to Hein de Jager, former board member of Limpopo cycling, the biggest cycling event in 2017 was the Polokwane Mayoral race, which the Polokwane municipality sponsored.

It was then also planned to build a cycling track near the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, together with a BMX track and a pavilion, but this came to naught.

No indications could be found that any of these projects were financed by NLK donations.

Johan van Dijkhorst, who in 2017 was the head of Limpopo cycling’s schools department, also confirmed that he was not aware of any projects that the NLK financed.

Stanley Thompson, who runs the Soutpansberg Youth Cycling Development, was also unaware of any lottery money being awarded to rural cyclists.

However, all three were of the opinion that financing could make a big difference.

“With R9.5 million you can buy a lot of shipping containers that can be used strategically in the district to store bicycles. You can buy quality bikes and you can train community members to service and maintain these bikes. You can implement training and coaching programs where more experienced riders can teach children proper cycling techniques,” Van Dijkhorst said.

“There is an abundance of talent in the rural areas.”

For his part, Thompson said that with R9.5 million, a world-class facility could be set up together with a development program that could make a real difference for at least a decade.

In the meantime, Bere and Terblanche still have to raise money, not only to get to the Western Cape, but also to get enough practice to secure a podium place.

This report was originally posted on GroundUp and is used with permission.