SAA Technical and the R2.5m property ‘donation’

Former HOD procurement at SAAT Nontsasa Memela.

In February Nontsasa Memela – former head of procurement at SAA Technical – testified that she had intended purchasing a property in Cove Ridge in the Eastern Cape for the business purpose of renting it out.

Nontsasa Memela, former head of procurement at SAA Technical, testified to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture in February and was called back to the commission on October 1.

Evidence leader Kate Hofmeyr gave the commission a brief run-down of the relevant matters.

Since Memela’s evidence, the commission had heard the evidence of Vuyisile Aaron Ndzeku, a director of JM Aviation South Africa, a ground support equipment and aviation spares supplier.

Memela and Mbanjwa had been invited to provide affidavits to the commission. Mbanjwa declined to furnish an affidavit. Memela had initially requested various documents before she would submit an affidavit.

These were provided, but she did not submit an affidavit. For this reason, Hofmeyr requested the opportunity to re-examine Memela based on Ndzeku’s evidence.

At issue

Homeyr explained the nub of the issues: “Memela had previously claimed that the R2.5 million she received towards the purchase of her Bedfordview property was not in any way untoward … it was not corrupt … it was money due to her mother pursuant to a sale agreement that Ndzeku had entered into with her mother, and which her mother had decided to donate towards the acquisition.”

Continuing, she said: “Ndzeku [in his evidence] conceded that the sale agreement was a fraud, it was not entered into in 2015 … but in 2019 … and therefore Memela’s receipt of the R2.5 million is called into question.”

“There can be no doubt this implicates Memela in very serious matters … and Memela should be afforded the opportunity to explain her side of the story in relation to the concession made by Ndzeku.”

Memela’s legal representation

Mbanjwa, representing Memela, objected to the proposed sequence of events: “We are prepared to meet the commission halfway.”

Mbanjwa suggested that the commission put its questions to Memela in writing, and they will respond in writing.

He also requested that she re-examine Memela first. This was rejected by the commission. He objected to the “inquisitorial nature of the proceedings”.

During the proceedings, Mbanjwa continuously interrupted commission chair Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and Hofmeyr.

Mbanjwa did not understand why Hofmeyr had to examine Memela again, and at one point told Hofmeyr that she does not understand the Fica (Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment) Act. S

he also vehemently disagreed with Hofmeyr that a person married in community of property must obtain the consent of the spouse when purchasing property.

When Mbanjwa interrupted and accused the commission of not following its mandate, Zondo calmly explained that fraud and corruption are in the terms of reference of the commission, ending with “please sit down”.

After instructing Mbanjwa on numerous occasions to “sit down”, Zondo eventually exclaimed: “Ms Mbanjwa, I have had many lawyers coming to the commission when their clients are giving evidence. I have never heard anyone who objects so frequently. It hampers progress.”

Cove Ridge property

In February Memela testified that she had intended purchasing a property in Cove Ridge in the Eastern Cape for the business purpose of renting it out.

It was not a developed property, and was in the process of being developed. The price was ostensibly R2.8 million, and Memela’s mother was going to assist her in buying it.

The mother was going to sell some properties in the Eastern Cape to raise the funds.

Memela couldn’t remember what deposit she had to pay.

The deed of sale, dated April 21, 2015, was signed between Slipknot Investment and Memela. The person who signed on behalf of Slipknot Investments was Yakhe Kwinana, at the time the chair of the board of SAA Technical.

Memela couldn’t say when the purchase price had to be paid.

When Memela found the Bedfordview property in February 2016, she cancelled the Cove Ridge purchase so that she could purchase the Bedfordview property for R3.8 million. The Cove Ridge agreement was cancelled on May 7, 2016.

Ndzeku had paid the amount of R2.5 million, ostensibly to purchase Memela’s mother’s portion of tribal land, into Mbanjwa’s bank account on May 5, 2016.

Ndzeku’s evidence: the R2.5m property deal

JM Aviation’s Ndzeku had purchased a property from Memela’s mother for R2.5 million, and the money was paid into Mbanjwa’s bank account. Mbanjwa had drawn up the sales agreement. The sales agreement provided that the mother would lend Memela R2.5 million to buy a property.

Hofmeyr mentioned that when an attorney takes on a new client they are mandated to obtain a “Fica client take-on sheet”. It appeared that this document was only completed after JM Aviation paid the R2.5 million into Mbanjwa’s account.

In any event, Memela didn’t remember having seen the form, and said that neither the handwriting nor the signature were hers.

The question left with the commission: had Mbanjwa forged the document?

There was much argument around whether tribal land can be sold or whether the chief can only give consent for someone to occupy the property.

Memela was also questioned on whether the sales agreement (drawn up by Mbanjwa) was valid, the date the sales agreement was signed (2019 backdated to 2015, or in 2015?), whether Memela’s mother’s signature had been forged, and the sequence of events.

Memela claimed that she only required R1.5 million to purchase her house, and both Zondo and Hofmeyr asked her to explain what she used the balance on.

She was shocked when Hofmeyr said that Memela’s bank statements would be able to show how the rest of the money was used.

Zondo asked: “If you only needed R1.5 million, why didn’t you give your mother the balance?”

Hofmeyr put it to Memela that she benefitted from the R2.5 million payment. If the head of procurement receives a payment from a supplier, and they cannot justify it, it indicates corruption.

Ground power units

SAA Technical had, allegedly on Memela’s instruction, sold 12 ground power units (GPUs) to JM Aviation for R3 million, which JM Aviation sold to Swissport for R9 million on the same day.

Memela denied that she had made this decision on her own, and insisted that Arson Phiri, former acting CEO of SAA Technical, made the decision which her.

Phiri denied that he had a discussion with Memela regarding the price, and denied that he had authorised this price.

Homeyr put it to Memela that Phiri had been in an all-day exco meeting on June 21, 2016, and Phiri had backed this up with a copy of the “lengthy and voluminous minutes”.

Memela still insisted that she had a discussion with him, but couldn’t remember exactly when.

This article first appeared on Moneyweb and was republished with permission.

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