Politically connected Mansoor family’s power intensify, influences Swazi politics



BY : ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI

MBABANE: The politically connected Mansoor family that operate Buy& Save Supermarket are slowly accumulating power that threaten the Sovereignty of the country, more individuals linked to the powerful family are strategically occupying influential positions of significant trust.

These are preliminary findings of an independent investigation regarding a ‘silent’ but influential family of Asian origin whose accumulation of power does not only impact the retail industry but slowly influencing the country’s political landscape. Members of the powerful family include Mohammed Qassim Mansoor, Arshad Mansoor Nasser and Ahmed Mansoor, who doubles as the Consular of the Republic of Seychelles.

It has been disclosed that the family arrived in the country over thirty years ago and started operating a shop at Luyengo that was owned by the late Nkomnophondo Khumalo, the father of MP Marwick Khumalo. They later expanded their business empire, established connections in powerful governing structures and subsequently developed political ambitions.

Now, evidence has emerged substantiating how the Mansoors have accumulated wealth and power while using their influence to bully and destroy businesses owned by other Swazis.

This Swaziland News Centre for Investigative Journalism uncovered crucial information how the Mansoors abused their power and shattered the ambitions of businessman Lincon Motsa to own SPAR and fully compete with them in the retail industry. Motsa, the owner of the then SaveMore Supermarkets had applied to the SPAR Group of South Africa to convert his supermarkets and operate under the said brand, however, the powerful family literally shattered his dreams. Directors of Buy&Save Supermarket (PTY) LTD with the prerogative to object to any application at the SPAR Group include Arshad Mansoor and Nasser Ahmed Mansoor.

Reached for comments, businessman Lincon Motsa confirmed the matter, saying his dreams to operate under the reputable retail brand were literally shattered after the Mansoors opposed his application at SPAR Group.

“It’s true that the Mansoors objected to our application to own SPAR, they really frustrated us. It is surprising that they prevented us from operating under SPAR yet at first, we were seeking to establish at Ngwane Park, over five (5) kilometers away from their supermarket. That means we were within the policies of the SPAR Group suggesting that SPAR supermarkets should be five kilometers away from the other, however, they blocked us” said the businessman who is the Director of Linac Investments.

An independent investigation by this publication further uncovered that Motsa, subsequent to the frustration and bullying by the Mansoor syndicate was then forced to change to Ok Foods, this enabled him to establish more supermarkets around the country even closer to Buy& Save. Speaking to this Swaziland News on the subject matter, Motsa further confirmed that his decision to covert to Ok Foods was influenced by the frustration he went through, masterminded by the powerful family who were seeking to remove him from the retail industry. “We were forced to covert to Ok Foods after the huge frustration we went through under the hands of the Mansoors, ‘it was really tough. However what surprised us, they were able to establish SPAR in Manzini, just one kilometer away from the one owned by Matata Group in Moneni.” he said.

When this Swaziland News reached the head of the family Nasser Ahmed Mansoor for comments, he joined the ‘fast lane’ and avoided questions. “Hy, how are you? He responded, and after this journalist introduced himself soon thereafter, the conversation was terminated. This publication later sent questions and there were no responses at the time of going press. On or around October 2018, the family allegedly captured a powerful political syndicate within Parliament and influenced it to elect one of its trusted allies Tony Sibandze into the House of Senate.

Sibandze runs First Choice Liquor Store (PTY) LTD, a company that operates within almost all the Buy& Save Supermarkets; it trades as Tops Bottle Store. Highly classified documentary evidence in possession of this Swaziland News Centre for Investigative Journalism suggests that even though Senator Tony Sibandze is known as the owner of the Liquor company, it is actually owned by the powerful family who cannot openly run it as prohibited by Islamic Law. Directors and or founding Executives of First Choice Liquor Company (PTY) LTD among others are Mohammed Qassim Mansoor and Jan Daniel Green. But Senator Sibandze when reached for comments consistently maintained that he took over the company saying he was not operating it on behalf of the Mansoors. “I note that you asking this question for the second time. I took over the company and I’m not operating it on their behalf. Also of note is that both Spars and Tops fall under the Spar Group of Sothern Africa” he said.

But now, fresh information has emerged how the Mansoor family captured a powerful political syndicate within Parliament and lobbied for the election of Senator Sibandze to advance their business and political interests. The political syndicate that successfully lobbied and secured a seat for Senator Sibandze involves MP Marwick Khumalo, Motshane MP Robert Magongo and Hosea MP Mduduzi Mabuza among others. Political insiders alleged that the wealthy family allegedly paid around E300, 000.00 to MP Marwick Khumalo to distribute it among MPs who ware then expected to vote for Tony Sibandze. On or around October 2018, in the midst of this intensive investigation, MP Marwick was questioned by this publication on why Parliament was selling Senate seats. Even thou the Prevention of Corruption Act 2006 criminalized the conduct of the MPs who sold Parliament seats; MP Khumalo insists there was nothing wrong as even in the various Constituencies, campaigning involved money. The MP responded in a whatsap message saying he was surprised that this investigative journalist seemed to have taken sides on the matter.

“I am surprised Mlangeni that you seem to have taken sides on the matter, campaigning involves money and there is nothing new about this” he said. MP Robert Magongo who was part of the political syndicate did not respond to our questions on the subject matter. Efforts were also made to seek a comment from Hosea MP Mduduzi Mabuza; it transpired that his number was busy. Responding to our questions on this particular matter, Senator Tony Sibandze denied that he secured a Senate seat through the influence of the powerful and politically connected Mansoor family. The Senator said his victory in the Senate elections, was influenced by the MPs and Swazis who encouraged him to stand for nominations. He confirmed thou that he knows them just like many families locally and outside the boarder. “I know a lot of families both outside and inside the country and the Mansoor family is one of the many families I know. I am of the view that that most of the elected MPs and Swazis who encouraged me to stand for nominations, influenced my election into Senate.

But Themba Msibi, the former Speaker in the House of Assembly said the country was in serious trouble with the corruption and buying of votes. Speaking to this Swaziland News, Msibi said if something was not done urgently, Swazis would lose control of the State as those entrusted with power are slowly selling the country. “It was the greatest scandal that undermined the credibility of our political system that MPs could openly sell Parliament seats and up to now no one has been arrested. As a citizen, I am still asking myself what can be done to save our country from where it is heading to, but I’m still confused and don’t know what we can do. You see, the current situation where people can organize themselves and take huge amounts of money from people with impunity suggests that this country is in serious trouble with the caliber of MPs in Parliament. Maybe, something is being done behind the scenes to address this, but in politics you don’t work behind the scenes, you have to account to the people. This means, by this time, the public should have witnessed arrests or told when those who sold Parliament will be arrested” said the former Speaker.

But an independent investigation further revealed that the lobbying by the Mansoors came at the time when the powerful family was pushing to influence His Majesty King Mswati to subsequently appoint Senator Tony Sibandze as the Minister of Finance, however, the whole plan did not materialize. The powerful family allegedly tried to establish strong links with the King through Prince Mphiwa Dlamini, the then Senior Protocol Officer in the King’s Office. But when reached for comments, Prince Mphiwa denied that the family was gained entry to the King only through him. Speaking to this publication, the Prince confirmed that the family would sometimes visit the King but stressed that this, would depend on who was on duty to secure them an appointment. “It’s not true that I was their strong link to the King. What I know Mnaketfu is that they would contact that particular Protocol Officer who was on duty to secure an appointment. Sometimes it would be me, sometimes it would be another officer” said the Prince.

It has been further disclosed that apart from the attempts to establish strong connections with the King, the powerful family further gained access to Her Majesty Queen Mother Ntombi Tfwala through MP Lutfo Ephraim Dlamini, the Chairman of Philani Maswati Charity Organization. Dlamini is one of the family’s close allies and through Buy& Save Supermarket, they would normally make donations and sponsor events organized by the Charity Organization, notably, the Biggest Braai. When this publication tried to seek a comment from MP Lutfo Dlamini, the telephone conversation was terminated pre-maturely. A message was then sent to the Philani Maswati Chairman, however, he never responded.

An independent investigation conducted by this publication suggest that the intended appointment of Sibandze as the political head of the Finance Ministry would have strengthened the syndicate, with Marwick Khumalo re-occupying his position as Chairman of the Finance Committee in the House of Assembly. Furthermore, Senator Mike Temple, one of MP Khumalo’s close allies was to take over a similar position in the House of Senate as Head of the Finance Committee. But insiders within Parliament told this Swaziland News Centre for Investigative Journalism that the Finance Committees in both Houses attract the interests of businesspeople as it approves monies for projects. Members of these Committee work closely with the Minister of Finance in controlling the flow of the billions budgeted by government and this, by extension, benefits companies that secured government tenders.

“These Finance Committees works with the Minister of Finance in controlling the billions of public funds. It is the Finance Committees that recommends to the Minister and further motivates the approval of budgeted monies to be released. This issue created tension between Senator Temple and Lindiwe as the Senate President dismantled the whole plan by removing Temple who has been trying in vain to take over that position” said an insider.

Senate President Lindiwe Dlamini could not be reached for comments, as she did not respond to calls and messages sent to her. But Senator Mike Temple when responding to our questions said they was literally nothing sinister with his interest in the Finance Committee, as he only wanted to retain a position he previously occupied. He confirmed that he knows the Mansoors particularly their father but denied strong links with the powerful family. “I know them particularly the father Ahmed, but we don’t have strong links. On the issue of the Parliament Finance Committee, there’s nothing much, I only wanted to retain the position I previously occupied, however it didn’t work, that’s all” he said. It could not be ascertained why the powerful Mansoor family was seeking to capture and control the Finance Ministry. But an independent investigation uncovered that apart from owning the Buy&Save, the family has other business interests. It has been established that they are fast buying land in the major towns of the country, as a result, slowly controlling the operations of all the cities. A separate investigation uncovered that on or around the year 2016 the Mansoor family reneged in an agreement with SWAKI and used bullying tactics to forcefully remove businessman Sean Stewart who was operating the Galp filling station at Ezulwini next to Corner Plaza.

Reached for comments, businessman Sean Stewart confirmed that he was forced out of the premises and the Galp filling station was taken over by the Mansoors. However, the businessman said he was not comfortable speaking against the powerful family describing them as wealthy and connected. Stewart chooses to be diplomatic saying it was against the agreement he had with them to divulge information on what happened.

“Its hard for me to comment, its against my agreement to divulge what we discussed because that was part of the agreement. They are just wealthy and well connected. The people who can comment are from Galp not me because I’m now out and not allowed to divulge the agreement or anything,” said the businessman who now runs the TOTAL filling station next to Gables Shopping Complex.

But senior insiders within Galp Swaziland told this Swaziland News Centre for Investigative Journalism that the Mansoors threatened that they will not renew the lease agreement if the filling Station was not converted to be operated by them. “The property was initially owned by the Mansoors as you can remember, there was something like a wholesale that they were running there known as Midway. What happened is that, our first MD Jose Cadring met with Paul Friedlander who was representing SWAKI. Paul suggested that he needs a filling station there to complement the Corner Plaza, Jose said to him: but you don’t own the property along the road that could be suitable for the filling station. Paul then said, he would meet the Mansoor guys to discuss the possibility of swapping the plot with another piece of land somewhere. This was agreed in a written agreement and we as Galp, then entered into a lease with SWAKI on the strength that the property was being transferred to SWAKI. However, when these Mansoor guys saw the filling Station doing well on their piece of land, they decided to pull-off and stopped the transfer of the land. It was a serious conflict between SWAKI and the Mansoors, however they managed it behind the scenes, to keep it away from the press. So as Galp, we were then held hostage by the Mansoors. They threatened not to renew the lease if we don’t give the filling station to them saying we can take our structure and go. What you should note here is that the lease was not registered but it was in the transitional process. It was a drawn-up lease, signed, but we needed to register it as it was a ten- year lease. So we couldn’t continue with the registration as they were threatening us, saying they were going to blow this whole thing-up,” said the insider within Galp.

Reached for comments, Fannie Mthetwa, the Galp Sales and Marketing Director said it would be hard for him to comment on issues involving Galp without getting a mandate from the Managing Director. “ I can only confirm that they are our retailers and there’s nothing we can say on the issues you are asking me about. It would be best that you contact them for comments” he said.