Internationally acclaimed deejay and businessperson Ashley ‘Shimza’ Raphala has maintained that his long-term romantic relationship with an employee in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office had nothing to do with his restaurant recently securing a government gig.
The tourism department recently hosted a cook-off between Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane and media personality Somizi Mhlongo Motaung at the globetrotting muso’s eatery – The Hang Awt 1632 – on Monday, which raised eyebrows because the venue has no links to the tourism sector.
Shimza revealed that department officials called the restaurant on its landline, not him directly, to make a booking for the event a week before it took place.
“The officials in the tourism department called us and came to The Hang Awt to alert management that the department had a programme they wanted to host at The Hang Awt, and the business agreed. As The Hang Awt, we don’t know what the internal discussions were for them to land at that decision to use our venue for their programme,” Shimza said.
He added that he “did not know of this programme and took it as a general booking of the venue when they called to enquire”
“No bidding was requested from us; we received a booking through the phone and availed the venue as requested by the department – the same way we would for any booking made,” he said.
The Hang Awt was closed on Monday for the cook-off, which saw the minister and the popular media personality rub elbows with other celebrities, including Shimza and Drip Footwear owner Lekau Sehoana.
The Channel O Lockdown House Party show creator found himself at the top of social media trending lists this week after controversial artist manager Nota Baloyi accused him of using his relationship with Athi Geleba, the head of digital communications in the presidency, to get government-related projects.
Shimza confirmed that he has been in a romantic relationship with Geleba for the past eight years, but rejected claims that his restaurant benefited from the department due to this.
“She has no interest in any of my businesses or any relationship in the tourism department. This is a venue that has never received any business or funding from government before,” he said.
Various venues were considered for the cook-off and a decision was made to book The Hang-Awt restaurant due to the fact that the establishment provided the most affordable quote compared with others.Department spokesperson Hlengiwe Nhlabathi-Mokota
“Nothing good is expected from anyone who has built all they have through hard work. Because of our current climate, people think everyone doing business with government is doing that through connections and corruption.
“I am a law-abiding citizen who cares about his community and believes in hard work with no short cuts. The booking came in like any other and The Hang Awt team made sure we delivered as requested by the department of tourism … nothing more, nothing less.
Even though Shimza would not reveal how much the department paid for the booking, department spokesperson Hlengiwe Nhlabathi-Mokota said The Hang Awt was selected because of its price point.
“Various venues were considered for the cook-off and a decision was made to book The Hang-Awt restaurant due to the fact that the establishment provided the most affordable quote compared with others, with logistics suitability and capacity to ensure adherence to Covid-19 regulations,” said Nhlabathi-Mokota.
Geleba’s phone went to voicemail on Friday afternoon.