A company run by former actress and talk show host Carol Bouwer, who was linked to the controversial ICT Indaba, has received over R7 million from the Lottery without clarity on what the money was used for.
GroundUp found that a “mystery non-profit company” called Venalor received R4.7 million from the Lottery in the 2018/2019 financial year, and R2, 292,300 the following year.
The company also received a R100,000 grant from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) COVID-19 relief fund, intended to help non-profit companies “struggling to stay afloat during this time”.
That means that Venalor received a total of R7,064,480 from the Lottery between 2018 and 2020.
Venalor, which was registered as a non-profit company in 2012, has three directors – Bouwer, Athina Christians, and Hazel Sithole.
GroundUp said it is unclear what Venalor does. “We searched the Internet and have found no website for the company or any online activity or accounts in its name on social media platforms,” it said.
“We have attempted to visit the company’s premises, but security guards told us we had to make an appointment.”
GroundUp asked Bouwer about the type of business Venalor is engaged in, links to the company’s website and social media accounts, and links to any online publicity about the funded projects.
The publication said Bouwer failed to answer these questions sent to her via email and the other directors did not respond to requests for comment.
Bouwer did, however, say they “have signed a grant agreement with the NLC, so everything about our projects is contained in the progress reports we have submitted to NLC”.
“Furthermore, we not only have widespread media coverage of the funded projects – all bearing NLC branding so our clients may be aware of the support, but we also use social media to create visibility of their support.”
“As an organization, we are proud of our record of being change agents when it comes to the arts, women empowerment, and support towards marginalised groups, including the LGBTIQ + communities.”
Questions emailed by GroundUp to Ndivhuho Mafela, the NLC’s head of communications, were ignored.
Carol Bouwer a familiar name
Bouwer is no stranger to the spotlight and has been linked to controversial projects for years.
Bouwer was the main organiser of the 2012 ICT Indaba, where former communications minister Dina Pule’s boyfriend, Phosane Mngqibisa, was paid R6 million in management fees.
According to the Department of Communications (DoC) the concept of the ICT Indaba was proposed by Carol Bouwer Designs as early as August 2010.
“Bouwer and Mngqibisa have met previously at private and state functions such as the 2011 Budget Speech,” the DoC said.
“Like with any other supplier, Mngqibisa was asked to present his credentials to Bouwer who found them suitable enough to partner with him for the ICT Indaba.”
According to the Sunday Times, Mngqibisa had been given access to Bouwer’s bank account and withdrawn millions to “pay suppliers”.
Mngqibisa also took a R6-million “management fee” and withdrew R100,000 from Bouwer’s account to fly to Barcelona to attend a conference also attended by Pule.
At the time, the Sunday Times reported that Bouwer would not reveal how much money Mngqibisa withdrew from her account or confirm whether he did pay the suppliers.
Carol Bouwer Productions further featured in a scathing Public Protector Report into a R70-million splurge on memorial services for Nelson Mandela in Mpumalanga after his death in 2013.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that while the company was paid R44.2 million and had paid other service providers, there was no evidence to show how much these had received.
Mkwebane found that the Mpumalanga Office of the Premier “irregularly appointed” Carol Bouwer Productions and ruled that “the entire” R70 million spent on the memorials was “irregular” as Treasury guidelines and the Public Finance Management Act had been breached.
In addition, Carol Brouwer Productions had never received an official letter of appointment.
In 2015, City Press reported how Mpumalanga director-general Nonhlanhla Mkize had appointed Carol Bouwer Productions, which had charged R8.2 million for the main event alone.
Other charges by the company included R2.9 million for “infrastructure”, R1.4 million for audio, a R2.3-million management fee, and a R782,000 “contingency fee”.
Carol Bouwer Productions also claimed R3.6 million for 100,000 T-shirts and R2.1 million for 500,000 bottles of water.
Reporting based on a GroundUp report.