Sunday, November 30, 2008

Arms deal’s billionaire bachelor

I have to believe these raids on people associated with the Arms Deal forms part of the Zuma camp's game of requital with the Mbekigarchs and boy, isn't payback a bitch?

For years teflon Zuma has ducked Mbeki's efforts to shut him out (they may yet succeed) but I think we are down to who blinks first. Zuma is running the show now and he will move fast to close out those he knows were involved in the scam that was the Arms Deal. The question has to be asked: if the Arms Deal was legit, how did Fana here become so wealthy overnight? Can you feel the stink?

The mystery of Mr Moneybags Billionaire - keeps low profile and high company.

A series of raids by the Scorpions this week have thrust a media-shy Johannesburg billionaire into the spotlight.

Latest arms probe goes to the heart of government
How Britain put the finger on Hlongwane

So little is known about Fana Hlongwane, a former freedom fighter who became an arms pedlar, that it is only the trappings of his wealth that sets tongues wagging in his tiny circle of powerful acquaintances and beautiful women. “Styles”, as he is also known, is renowned for his rap star-like lifestyle and his penchant for beautiful women, Cuban cigars and Dom Pérignon champagne.

On Wednesday, the Scorpions swooped on the 49-year-old lawyer’s homes and businesses as part of a massive new investigation into corruption in the country’s arms deal. Hlongwane has not been arrested or charged in any arms deal-related cases. But it appears that the source of the money he uses to fund his extravagant tastes has come back to haunt him.

The elite unit acted on claims by the British Serious Fraud Office that billions of rands worth of kickbacks or illegal commissions were paid by the UK-based defence giant, BAE Systems, to individuals or companies in South Africa.

Apart from being chairman of a large defence-and arms-related business, Hlongwane owns a 30% stake in LSM Distributors, the company that has exclusive rights to import Porsche vehicles to Southern Africa. It is probably not surprising, then, that the man has a luxury car for just about every day of the week.

His personal fleet includes a R4-million Lamborghini Murcielago, a R6-million Bentley Azure, a R1.6-million Porsche Cayenne Turbo FL, a R2-million Ferrari Spider, an R800 000 Mercedes-Benz convertible and a low-key BMW 3 Series that costs between R546,500 and R602,200. The cars are estimated to be worth at least R15-million.

Always the snappy dresser, he earned the nickname “Styles” from his days in exile. These days, he apparently has his shirts made specially for him in Italy. He is also believed to own a string of houses across the country, many of them registered under a company name. Two of these — one in Johannesburg’s Hyde Park, dubbed the “Playboy mansion” after the Hugh Hefner TV series, and the other at Zimbali Lodge in KwaZulu-Natal — are conservatively estimated to be worth more than R100-million.

According to previous reports in the Mail & Guardian, Hlongwane contracted a company in 2006 to install a cigar room and gym and renovate the patio and main bedroom in his Zimbali home for R1.1-million. This probably confirms why his house parties are generally the talk of the town, particularly among the pretty young women who crack an invitation. He is also known to belt out a tune or two while playing the grand piano at his Hyde Park home and is known to talk “affectionately” of the roses spread around his expansive garden.

Hlongwane rarely, if ever, attends any of Johannesburg’s highbrow functions and the only known photograph available of him is one taken in 1998 after he joined the board of Denel. He has, on occasion, been spotted at high-profile struggle veterans’ funerals, for which he reputedly paid. Among the various “Fana tales” doing the rounds is that he has several girlfriends at once, for whom he has bought fancy cars and who he has taken on lavish joint shopping sprees, including abroad.

Another story relates how, while having his hair cut, he saw a beautiful woman in the salon and paid the owner big bucks to close for two hours so he could woo her. He walked away with the woman, who was engaged, and is even alleged to have repaid her fiancé’s lobola.

Hlongwane eats at Johannesburg’s best eateries and some of Mandela Square in Sandton City’s more up-market bars and restaurants. He is sometimes spotted with a cigar firmly clenched between his lips, surrounded by women and ordering bottles of Dom Perignon Rosé. He also regularly hires private dining rooms at The Saxon boutique hotel, just down the road from his Johannesburg house, for business meetings. He is chairman of the Ngwane Defence Group, a black-owned company specialising in aerospace, military and security solutions. Its CEO is former army chief Siphiwe Nyanda, an influential member of the ANC’s national working committee.

The company sells, among other things, specialised military vehicles, sniper and assault rifles, riot-control gear and equipment aimed at emergency relief. Its board of directors includes former bigwigs in the SANDF as well as diplomat George Nene.

Hlongwane, who studied law in the former Soviet Union, is also listed as a director in a host of other companies relating to defence, manufacturing and healthcare. He left South Africa in the ’70s and became a ranking commander of Umkhonto weSizwe, living in several African countries including Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Botswana. It is here he is believed to have forged his close ties with the late Joe Modise, who signed most of the arms deals while defence minister in 1999.

Hlongwane returned from exile in the early ’90s and was part of the MK delegation that testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about their activities in South Africa during apartheid. Prior to 1994, he was spotted at Modise’s side during the Codesa talks and later became his adviser. He was regarded as the main man between the government and the overseas arms dealers touting for business.

But he was found to have been playing both sides because one of his companies, Tsebe Properties, was listed as a shareholder in Osprey, the company used by BAE Systems as an agent to disburse commissions.

An official in the Department of Defence once said about Hlongwane: “Someone like Fana would see the money bags hanging in the air and immediately market himself, saying: ‘I am your man, I know everybody.’"

7 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

i want to be just like him

Anonymous said...

wow i wanna meet him:)

Anonymous said...

I really want to meet this man,I want to be pampered a bit.

Anonymous said...

Im gon grow up to be JUST LIKE HIM
(Watch this space)

Anonymous said...

Fana Hlongwane you have fight for whaht you have,now this cats can,t accept that a blackman can be a Billioner.hustle hard don't stop with what you is money no matter were you get it

Anonymous said...

Go hard

Tim Johnston said...

"hustle hard"???
see, that, right there, is the problem.
There are black billionaires, nobody needs to "prove" anything

- except maybe that blacks can become billionaires in other ways than becoming presidents of African countries, or their buddies.