- A deal which gives a relatively unknown music promoter, Eldridge Motlhake, the contract to provide fuel for SA Express for three years has raised many eyebrows
- The R67-million a month deal for three years is worth R2.4-billion and is thought to have been arranged by two SA Express executives
- The contract, which is now being investigated, has been awarded to Mothake despite the struggling airline already having an existing arrangement with with SAA at an average cost of R45-million a month
It seems that very little is known about Eldridge Motlhake, a relatively unknown music promoter from Pretoria, who has a habit of posting pictures of himself with South Africa’s rich and powerful on Facebook except that he has now been linked to a deal with SA Express to provide the airline fuel.
A Sunday paper has reported this morning that an investigation into tender irregularities has begun at the struggling SA Express airline following revelations that what is described as a ‘dodgy deal’ has been struck with Motlhake’s company, EML Energy, to supply fuel at an inflated cost to the airline.
Briefly.co.za learned from reports in this weekend’s Sunday Times that was given a deal worth R67-million a month for three years to supply fuel to the airline.
This is reportedly despite SA Express already having deal with national carrier, SAA, for an average of R45-million per month. This amounts to approximately R800-million less over the three year period of the deal with Motlhake.
Two SA Express executives, Sam Vilakazi and Merriam Mochoele, allegedly engineered the deal with EML Energy, owned by Motlhake, despite there having reportedly been no tender process. It is believed that that airline’s board and management was unaware of the deal being struck.
The head office of EML Energy is, according to the newspaper, a nondescript house with palisade fencing in the Pretoria suburb of Akasia. It was reported that SA Express has yet to receive even a single drop of fuel for the R2.4-billion deal. When asked for comment, Mothlake reportedly refused.
“I can’t comment due to contractual obligations,” the promotor reportedly said on Saturday night.
The report also failed to receive any comment from Vilakazi and Mochoele who were reportedly unavailable for comment.
The South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) suspended SA Express’s operations on Thursday and grounded all of the airline’s planes after it failed several safety requirements.
SA Express has confirmed its current fuel supply deal with SAA which costs an average of R45-million a month, roughly R22-million a month less than the EML Energy deal.
The difference between the two contracts amounts to R800-million over three years.
Speaking for the airline, Refilwe Masemola reportedly said on Saturday that once management was made aware of the irregularity of the contract they had put a team of forensic investigators onto the case.
Masemola said investigators met with EML Energy, where she said, “the supplier confirmed that this contract was issued without following the airline’s procurement processes and that they had engaged directly with some executives, who have subsequently been placed on suspension”.
“A full internal investigation into the matter is under way, and once the final report is concluded, the airline will explore all legal charges to be proffered against the . . . parties concerned.”
Masemola also reportedly confirmed that SA Express’s existing fuel contract with SAA was still in place rendering the new deal unnecessary.
“It is our view that it was operationally senseless and financially irresponsible to conclude a fuel agreement with a third-party supplier while the SAA agreement was still in place.”
SAA spokesman, Tlali Tlali, said the national airline had been supplying SA Express with fuel “for at least the past 10 years”.
Masemola said Vilakazi had been placed on suspension from his role of chief procurement officer. She reportedly said his “role entails that he provided expertise with regard to procurement arrangements, and had exhaustive oversight over the purchasing contracts entered into by the airline”.
Masemol apparently explained that both Vilakazi and Mochoele were members of the bid adjudication committee. Mochoele, as the airline’s head of legal, risk and compliance had apparently been given permission by the previous acting CEO, Victor Xaba, to sign the deal on behalf of the airline, she said.
Mothake has shared photos on his social media account in which he has posed with, among others, former president Jacob Zuma and ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule. In February 2017, he posted a picture of an SA Express plane with the caption “Almost is not enough”.
However, as expected almost all trace of him was gone from all social media accounts after the story broke on Sunday morning.
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