During Supra Mahumapelo’s tenure as premier, a small and little-known enterprise with a sole director was paid R51 million by the North West government in a deal involving SA Express (SAX).
The enterprise did not have the experience and ground-handling service compliance required by aviation regulations, the state capture commission heard yesterday.
During her testimony before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, Babadi Tlatsana, a North West businessperson and sole owner of Koreneka Trading and Projects, conceded under cross-examination that her company, which became a preferred bidder in 2014 without a tender process, lacked experience in this arena.
According to Tlatsana, before bagging the huge aviation ground-handling service business at Pilanesberg and Mahikeng airports, Koreneka was involved in the delivery of meat and vegetables to hospitals. She said she had not expected Koreneka to win the deal.
“We were told by [former SAX commercial manager] Brian van Wyk to just do the marketing and passengers’ flights, for them to get tickets, as well as the administration. I didn’t even have an idea about, or knowledge of, ground handling,” said Tlatsana.
For ground handling, third-party service providers are expected to be Airports South Africa- and Air Traffic Navigation Services-compliant and be selected in an open tender process.
But in Koreneka’s case, no procurement process was followed and no compliance was deemed necessary.
As an enterprising businessperson, Tlatsana put forward the idea of bringing SAX flights to Mahikeng and Pilanesberg, which Van Wyk described as “brilliant”. He asked her to “bring a proposal”.
At a meeting called by Mahumapelo for local businesses to share experiences on doing business with government, she told him about her idea to increase local flights.
She said Mahumapelo responded positively and spoke of “saam werk” (working together).
“I took that to mean pulling together; working together in repositioning, renewing and rebranding our village,” she said.
She was told to liaise with Van Wyk and he contacted her by e-mail and telephone.
Asked by commission senior counsel Kate Hofmeyr what Van Wyk had told her, she said: “He said SAX was a parastatal and did things differently. I believed everything he was saying. He informed me I had to appoint other people into the company.
“I was later called by Van Wyk and told I was a preferred bidder because I was a woman and from the North West. He said the project was going to be big.”
Tlatsana was then asked to sign business documents.