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By Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

ANC looks to ConCourt: Alleges overlooked forensic report in R102m debt dispute with Ezulweni

The ruling party argues that the SCA ignored new evidence from a forensic report.

The African National Congress (ANC) says it will approach the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) to appeal the Supreme Court of Appeal’s (SCA’s) decision in the Ezulweni matter.

In a judgment handed down on Friday, the SCA ruled in favour of Ezulweni Investments, which supplied the ANC with campaign material for the 2019 elections.

In court papers, Ezulweni Investments (Pty) Ltd said in January 2019, it approached the ruling party for a presentation for the supply of election banners, their placement and removal for the new election campaign.

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The 20 February meeting was attended by Ezulweni CEO Renash Ramdas, who described himself as a long-standing and loyal member of the ANC, then-ANC financial manager Nhlanhla Mabaso and Fikile Mbalula’s personal assistant Lebohang Nkholise, at the Garden Court Hotel in Eastgate.

An oral agreement was concluded. Mabaso and Nkholise placed an order for 30,000 branded PVC banners at an agreed price of R2 900 per banner. In addition, a price of R70 per banner was agreed for their placement and removal.

“Thereafter, Ramdas ‘constantly communicated with [Nkholise and Mabaso] and kept them abreast of the progress of the project’. He put up photographs ‘which were shared with’ them and which showed such progress,” reads Ezulweni’s version of events.

On 4 April, Ezulweni sent an invoice to Nkholise for R87 million for the 30,000 PVC banners.

After the election, final invoices for R100 050 000 and R2 415 000 respectively were sent. The final two invoices were sent but remained unpaid.

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On 11 June, Ramdas and Mabaso met at the Holiday Inn in Eastgate, where Ramdas requested payment and claimed that Mabaso acknowledged indebtedness.

After several attempts to get the ANC to pay the money, then treasurer-general Paul Mashatile acknowledged receipt and said the “matter is receiving attention, I will revert to you in due course”. But the promised response did not materialise.

ANC’s version

In its arguments, the ANC admitted that although the meetings were held with Mabaso and Nkholise, no agreement was either negotiated or concluded at any of those meetings.

“The sole content of the meetings, and the sole purpose of Mabaso and Nkholise attending them, was to convey to Ramdas that only Mashatile could authorise election material, and that a purchase order had to be issued before any agreement could be concluded,” it argued.

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The ANC also denied that the quotation dated 11 February had been sent to Nkholise prior to the 20 February meeting.

It admitted receiving all of the messages sent by Ramdas on the dedicated WhatsApp Group he set up, but said no responses were ever sent because none were required.

It admitted receipt of the photographs showing the progress and the installed banners, and sending the email to Ramdas on 9 April containing the final design for the ‘Call to Vote’ poster.

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However, the email was sent for information purposes and not “to confirm approval of any agreement between the parties”.

SCA ruling

In its ruling, the SCA questioned why further meetings were held with the concerned parties if the initial meeting clearly explained the ANC’s position in the matter.

The court also questioned why Nkholise drafted a letter on 9 April to Mashatile, requesting payment of the R87 million, instead of enquiring from Ramdas why an invoice had been sent when no agreement had been concluded.

The letters requesting payment were not immediately responded to stating that there was no agreement between the parties. The only letter sent in response said that the matter would be looked into, said the SCA.

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“All of these factors, and more besides, demonstrate overwhelmingly that the version put up by the ANC as to the interaction between Ramdas, Mabaso and Nkholise is utterly untenable and without veracity,” said the SCA.

“The ANC’s version is not capable of belief in face of the cascade of communications from Ramdas that were met with deafening silence from the ANC. The only credible response of an entity in the position of the ANC, if its version was true, would have been immediately to set the record straight so as to prevent Ezulweni proceeding at risk.”

The ANC’s application was dismissed with costs.

But the ANC says it will take the matter to the ConCourt, arguing that the SCA did not consider new evidence which had emerged from a forensic report.

According to ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri, the forensic report reveals “crucial evidence that makes it plain that there was no authorisation for the transactions in question, and certain implicated individuals misrepresented their positions and authority”.

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