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INYATSI BREAKS SILENCE ON ‘SWAZI SECRETS’ LEAKS

By BODWA MBINGO | 2024-05-31

Inyatsi Group Holdings has set the record straight on accusations levelled against the group through the ‘Swazi Secrets’ alleged leaked documents by the ICIJ from the Eswatini Financial Intelligence Unit (EFIU).

ICIJ stands for the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists and with a number of its other media partners, the organisation has published a series of articles where Inyatsi Group, among others, has been brought under serious accusations some of which will not be published for ethical reasons.

Inyatsi Group Holdings Chief Executive Officer Investments, Paul Lwiindi, addressing the media during a press briefing at Hilton Garden Inn yesterday afternoon, said as a group they had noted with concern, “recent social media stories masquerading as serious journalism”.

He was responding to questions from this publication on what the group had to say on the various accusations levelled against it through the series of ‘Swazi Secrets’ articles.

Lwiindi said as part of the various stories, they had noted two main issues that have been doing rounds on social media platforms, with one being about a private-public partnership (PPP) project and the company lending money to government.

He referred to the other one as that on Eswatini Mobile and the sale of shares by its founders.
“On PPP, by definition, it means that the private company shall participate and play its part and that the government or a government agency will also participate and play its part.

It is a partnership and so yes, we did lend money to government, some of which was our own and some of which we sourced from external financiers and that’s how a PPP works,” he explained.

Lwiindi then wondered how or why that was made to become news.
In one of the series of ‘Swazi Secrets’ articles, a contract allegedly entered into in December 2021, by Inyatsi and government worth E647 million to complete the Gege-Sicunusa Road project was highlighted.

It claimed that government entered a loan agreement with Inyatsi to borrow the above amount for the completion of the road.

During the same press conference,  Inyatsi Group Holdings executives led by Group Construction CEO Derrick Shiba announced the completion of the road and detailed the nature of the PPP (see page 4).

Meanwhile, Lwiindi also touched on the second matter around the establishment of Eswatini Mobile and how some of the shares were sold by its founders.

“Most of you will recall when there was only one telecommunications provider in the country and you will remember the tariffs that you were paying for airtime and data.
Then two local businessmen, the late Victor Gamedze and his partner (Michelo Shakantu) decided to start Eswatini Mobile,” he stated.

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“And when you start a business you are free to sell shares in the business. People subscribe or they decide to buy the shares in the business and then you receive the money.

What you do with the money is your own business and by the way these transactions are usually undertaken by lawyers,” Lwiindi added in detail.

He further wondered how these series of events had become an  issue or newsworthy.
This is after the ICIJ alleged that the Swazi Secrets leak provided evidence of a reputable law firm’s role in facilitating financial transactions for the two businessman, one of which took place in June 2017, involving millions of Emalangeni paid from the Eswatini National Provident Fund (ENPF), via the law firm’s Nedbank account, to the personal accounts of the two.

According to the report, the EFIU detected an alleged June 2017 transfer of E50m from the ENPF to the Nedbank account, which then remitted E20m each to the two businessmen with the remaining E10m paid to Eswatini Mobile that they co-founded.

It was further alleged that ENPF claimed that the money was paid for shares in Eswatini Mobile.
Meanwhile, Lwiindi added; “My little knowledge of journalism is that it is meant to educate, to inform and to entertain.

We can entertain with lies, but I’m not sure if we have been educated or informed in any way other than the falsehoods that have been paddled for whatever reason. So I hope we can now set the record straight, but also in the future ignore such gutter journalism and really uphold the ethos and the ethics of good journalism that most journalists practice.”

Following the reports, government has set up a team comprising senior officers from government, security agents and private sector to investigate the alleged leak of over 890 internal records from the EFIU to the ICIJ.

These documents include financial records allegedly obtained from the EFIU and were used to compile reports published under the banner of ‘Swazi Secrets’ and touch on businesspeople, politicians and other high-profile people. 

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