Publication: Cape Argus Issued: Date: 2008-11-28 Reporter: Christelle Terreblanche

Who is Fana Hlongwane?



Cape Argus



Reporter Christelle Terreblanche

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He is described by sources as a somewhat secretive figure. A Kwazulu-Natal boykie who made good.

The 49-year-old moved even further into the shadows after it was disclosed two years ago that Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was investigating him in connection with alleged kickbacks in South Africa's multibillion-rand arms deal.

His name has become synonymous with a high-flying lifestyle in Johannesburg's northern suburbs and he also goes by the name "Styles" because of his taste for the good things in life.

He has been described as a smooth operator never shy to advertise his close association with the late former defence minister, Joe Modise, and others in the ANC's top hierarchy.

This week the Directorate of Special Operations (Scorpions) raided premises owned or linked to Fana Hlongwane, late defence minister Joe Modise's alleged former advisor.

Spokesman Tlali Tlali declined to name the target of the action or its purpose.

Hlongwane is the chairman of the Ngwane Group of defence companies, which concentrates on the technological development of military land-vehicle systems. He is also the director of about 20 odd enterprises and a former director of parastatal arms manufacturer, Denel.

Former defence force chief, General Siphiwe Nyanda, joined the Ngwane group in 2005 as its CEO.

Both are said to have left fairly well-off families in the 1970s to join Umkhonto weSizwe and later ascended to its High Command.

Hlongwane studied towards a law degree in the former Soviet Union.

Nyanda is a prominent member of the ANC's national executive and working committees, a die-hard supporter of the party's president Jacob Zuma and tipped as a future minister of defence.

Sources say he is among those who have argued most consistently within the ANC's top structures for further probes into the arms deal.

Hlongwane returned from exile in the early 1990s and was soon spotted at Modise's side during the Codesa talks. He later emerged as Modise's adviser on the arms deal.

He is alleged to have been at the forefront in pushing for the BAe deal for Hawk trainer jets and the BAe-Saab Gripen fighter aircraft, which made up a substantial chunk of the arms deal that now totals more than R50 billion.

The British SFO investigation into BAe involvement in the arms deal focused on documents received from BAe alleging that Hlongwane had "entered into a general consultancy agreement with BAe in 2002 on a retainer of 1 million a year".

In addition, it is said that in 2005 there was a payment of $8 million as a settlement figure to Hlongwane in relation to work done on the Gripen project.

Researcher Paul Holden describes in his recent book, The Arms Deal in your Pocket, how in mid-2006, the SFO submitted a request for assistance to South African authorities to pursue an investigation into the BAe deals.

Holden wrote: "Attached to the request, which was granted by South African investigators in January 2007, were a series of damning allegations. According to the application, there existed a complex web of agents and intermediaries who had batted for BAe in South Africa. In particular, the allegations fingered one Fana Hlongwane."

Hlongwane has also been linked to other figures implicated in the SFO investigation, including Richard Charter, a former BAe agent who died in a mysterious accident on the Orange River in 2004.

The two men were directors of the company Tsebe Properties, which is also linked to Osprey Aerospace - another of Charter's companies that is subject to the SFO's investigation.

Charter was chair of BAe Systems South Africa.

Charter, in turn, was closely linked to John Bredenkamp, BAe's other Southern African agent.

Like Hlongwane, the Scorpions also swooped on Bredenkamp's South African properties yesterday. Bredenkamp, who now lives in London, had his assets in the United States attached this week in a clampdown on those who are believed to be aiding President Robert Mugabe.

The National Prosecuting Authority earlier this year revealed that it had started its own investigation into corruption allegations around the BAe-Saab deal.

Hlongwane and Modise, along with the late foreign minister Alfred Nzo, were also linked to three companies - Liselo, Marvol and Marvotech - run by a Russian arms dealer, Mark Voloshin, who is alleged to have been an apartheid-era sanctions-buster. Voloshin now owns a Boland wine estate.

Modise died on November 26, 2001 with numerous allegations in the then unfolding arms deal corruption scandal hanging over his head.

The defence ministry says it has no records of Hlongwane's term of service as Modise's special adviser.

Among the other companies in the Ngwane Group's stable are tracker-device company Ivema, which "provides innovative and specialised solutions for defence, security and humanitarian aid clients", according to its website.

Hlongwane is also involved in Uri Vehicle Manufacturing, Ngwane Aerospace and Ngwane Health.

With acknowledgements to Christelle Terreblanche and Cape Argus.