Businessman Edwin Sodi has moved to defend several payments his company, Blackhead Consulting, made to ANC and government officials over years while it was awarded government contracts worth millions of rands.
Sodi appeared for a second time at the Zondo commission, on Tuesday. His evidence is related to a 2014 asbestos audit tender valued at R255 million his company was awarded by the Free State government.
Evidence previously heard at the inquiry confirmed the tender was awarded to the Blackhead Consulting and Diamond Hill joint-venture without proper procurement processes being followed. Diamond Hill was owned by now-deceased businessman Ignatius Mpambani, who was shot dead in Sandton in 2017.
Sodi admitted he did not reveal to the Free State government his company had no certification to remove asbestos. Another omission was that the contract would be sub-contracted twice and the second contractor performed the job for R21 million, allowing Diamond Hill and Blackhead to make a profit of around R200 million without having done any of the work.
The former head of Department for Human Settlements in the Free State, Nthimotse Mokhesi, conceded the department had failed in doing the proper procurement work regarding the tender, and that the provincial government did not entirely get value for money.
Sodi was on Tuesday confronted with his company’s bank statements which revealed dozens of payments to various individuals who either worked for the government and the ANC, or had previously done so.
The payments were made between 2013 and 2019 when Sodi’s company had been awarded various tenders, mainly from the Department of Human Settlements.
Advocate Paul Pretorius, the evidence leader, confirmed with Sodi that his company had, at one point, in 2015, made over R1 billion in turnover mainly from human settlements contracts.
Sodi said a large amount of money from the government was unsurprising because his company did various business with the government.
A breakdown of the payments Sodi’s company made included the following individuals: Zizi Kodwa, who currently serves as deputy minister of state securit,y who received R171 000. Sodi said Kodwa was his friend and he often helped him while he worked at the ANC and was struggling with payments.
“Zizi is a friend I have made payments to him while he still worked at the ANC. It was payments I made as a friend where he requested assistance. He would say there are delays in payments and he would ask for assistance,” Sodi explained.
Sodi also made payments to Pinky Kekana, the deputy minister of communications, who he described as a friend.
Other payments include R3.6 million for ANC T-shirts and R6.5 million paid to the ANC with reference to Zweli Mkhize, who served as its treasurer general.
Another payment was made to the ANC, with reference to Paul Mashatile – the current ANC treasurer-general.
Sodi had also paid R7.5 million to a Bongani More, a former DG for the Gauteng department of human settlements. He said More was his business partner.
A payment of R6.5 million was also made to Collins Pitso, a former chief of staff to former environmental affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane. Sodi said he was in a property business deal with Pitso’s father.
Pretorius put it to Sodi that such payments, and the fact that some of the contracts he entered into without proper processes being followed, could raise the perception of the deals being described as kickbacks.
Sodi denied the perception of “kickbacks”, saying he had always been a supporter of the ANC and was simply giving back to the organisation.
“I do not have much of a comment there. I have stated that I grew up supporting the ruling party. I continue to support the ANC. When the requests come, that they owe a service provider and am I able to assist? That continues to happen even now. I grew up in the movement. The fact that there would have been donations from myself or my entities I do not see that as strange, fraudulent or corrupt,” Sodi said.
Sodi has now concluded his evidence at the commission.