MBABANE: Michello Shakantu, the Director of Inyatsi Construction allegedly offered a bribe to this Swaziland News editor Zweli Martin Dlamini after learning about an on-going investigation regarding his multi-million properties in South Africa and allegations of money laundering.
The multi-millionaire businessman, a husband to Justice Minister Pholile Dlamini-Shakantu allegedly sent a well-known politician to contact this editor and negotiate that the investigation be dropped and that this publication stops publishing critical articles about him and his company in exchange for money.
“I have been instructed by Michello to contact you and negotiate that you stop exposing him, utsi yena akekho ku-politiki nakuletintfo tabo Pholile, manje kuphele kungena ligama lakhe, utsi lentfo ayimphilisi kahle ngoba akati kutsi litawushona kuphumeni( meaning:he says he has nothing to do with the politics that involves Pholile but his worry is that his name is always involved on this, he says this thing is affecting him because he don’t know what might be published as each day passes). He says you are free to name any prize and he will just pay you” said the politician.
The name of the politician cannot be revealed for now pending further investigation regarding the Inyatsi Director’s links to the subsequent hiring of a South African Private Investigator Lance Epstein who was allegedly engaged to apprehend the editor.
This is not the first time an attempt has been made by the businessman to capture the editor, on or around July 2018, Inyatsi Communications Officer Gugulethu Msane allegedly contacted the editor saying she had been instructed to create a ‘relationship’ between the company and the Swaziland News.
This was after the publication of an investigative story that exposed how Inyatsi captured King Mswati, Zambian President Edgar Lungu through a huge syndicate to loot resources from both countries through tenders.
“My bosses instructed me to contact you and create a relationship because we can see you are writing about Inyatsi and this is affecting our business, we may never know whether you are used by our competitors. I would like you to send me the advertising rates, just sent me an email, we will consider advertising with your publication for the Independence Day,” said the Communications Officer in a conversation with the editor.
An independent investigation by this publication uncovered that the company used such strategies and or traps to create justification in the eyes of the public when exposed for alleged corruption.
On or around 2019, Inyatsi allegedly hired Times journalist Welcome Dlamini to spy a businessman in the construction industry who was aggrieved that the company, through its royal connection was grabbing all tenders, the telephone conversation was later leaked in the social media to ‘imply’ that competitors were using journalists to scandalize Inyatsi. The company later released a press statement cleaning its name after the audio between Welcome Dlamini was leaked to the public.
But it appeared that the strategy by the Inyatsi boss backfired after the hiring of the South African private investigator allegedly by government through the office Minister’s office, triggering further investigation by this publication.
In an almost similar strategy used by the Times journalist, the South African PI claimed he was sent by a client to provide the editor with documents, he said the intention was to expose Inyatsi. The documents paraded by the private investigator in a Zoom meeting with the editor were reflecting correspondence between government, other contractors and Michello’s company.
“I think this might be of interest to you and my client” said the Private Investigator who later denied that he was instructed by the government to apprehend the journalist.
Worth noting is that the PI made the calls asking to meet the editor shortly after the Inyatsi Director allegedly sent the politician with intention of offering a bribe.
Senior political sources alleged that Michello Shakantu’s wife Pholile, the Justice Minister held series of meetings were strategies to have the journalist apprehended and subsequently extradited were discussed.
Several calls were made to reach the Inyatsi Director so he can respond to the allegations, but he did not pick his calls.
On or around 11 August 2020, few days before the Private Investigator contacted the editor, Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini published a statement through Government Spokesperson Sabelo Dlamini saying the government will pursue means to catch the editor. Justice Minister Pholile Dlamini-Shakantu, her husband Michelo Shakantu and Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini are both members of the ‘ruling’ Jesus Calls Worship Centre.
Inyatsi Director Michello Shakantu-(pic:Inyatsi)